Communicating With Clients About Valuation Expectations
Even if liability is perfect, many judges in the counties remind plaintiffs attorneys during settlement conferences that verdicts in the counties have been consistently declining. Further, many jurors are offended by a plaintiff's claim of injury because they are concerned about their own insurance rates, or because they might have the same injury as the plaintiff.
Empower Clients Through Communication
Lack of communication is the most common complaint made against attorneys. The daily schedule of a litigator is often so crowded that calling a client every few weeks to provide a case update seems impossible and is less of a priority than our other undertakings. A client is more likely to listen to and respect an attorney's recommendation regarding settlement if the attorney has been responsive to the client in the past. If a client has not received a phone call in several months and an offer is extended, an attorney should expect more reluctance from the client when a settlement is recommended.
We should remind our clients periodically of their exclusive right to accept or reject a settlement offer. An attorney cannot make a settlement decision for a client, and reminding the client of that power continues to build trust by empowering the client.
I always let the client know that I enjoy trying cases, but there is no worse outcome than rejecting a reasonable offer only to proceed to a jury verdict in favor of the other side. This is especially true on the plaintiffs side, when risking thousands of dollars will have a drastic impact on the client's life.
Survey Outside Perspectives
Depending on the size of your firm, holding a weekly attorney meeting can be extremely useful, especially for assisting in valuing cases. A roundtable discussion and secret ballot serve as an effective way for the case-handling attorney to reassure a client of the likely value of the case. Communicate to the client that you sought additional insight from other attorneys and relay the consensus.
The psychology of informing and educating a client about the real value of a case can only be learned through experience. Every client has different past experiences and pre-existing ideas about how the process of litigation works. Changing those pre-existing ideas and perceptions is one of the most challenging parts of our job, but also one of the most rewarding when a client chooses to settle and we know that we helped the client make the right decision.
Craig Robinson is an associate with Lundy Law who represents plaintiffs in personal injury actions. He is on the board of directors of Stop CAID Now, a nonprofit that raises awareness for childhood autoinflammatory diseases.