Article of Interest

Article of Interest

Client’s Corner: Why Ethical Lawyers are the Best Bet for Your Bottom Line
By: Bill S. Richmond

The zealous lawyer is an oft-referenced, but rarely defined character at the center of legal disputes when representing all types of clients, whether individuals or businesses. Even in business litigation, where one expects companies would be focused on the dollars-and-cents costs of lengthy litigation versus the (hopefully) beneficial outcome some years down the road, can be plagued with the emotions that prevent the people behind those businesses from acting rationally and with an appropriate weight given to the risks and costs of litigation. These emotions, and the idea that a “zealous” defender fights in a “no holds barred” style, can lead clients to the hiring of and demand for “guerilla warfare” lawyers who see the law, procedural requirements, and ethical obligations as mere guidelines as opposed to rules.

The smart money, however, often is on clients who hire lawyers that follow these rules and obligations for long term benefits as opposed to short term emotional glory. Here are reasons why hiring ethical lawyers is the best bet for the bottom line of a business client that finds itself in litigation:

1.  Wasted Money: Clients pay lawyers because they have to, not out of charity or a desire to fund the lawyer’s collection of Tom Ford suits or Louboutin pumps. When a client hires a lawyer to take “all necessary action” to win a case, that client runs the high risk of throwing money away through a striking increase in billable hours resulting from increased lawyer communications, filing of pleadings, hearings, and discovery battles. The ethical lawyer, however, acts within the law and fights only legitimate battles, thereby keeping costs to what is necessary to accomplish the client’s goals.

2.  Damaged Reputation: A lawyer’s reputation for arguing legitimate facts and law can make or break a case in front of a judge or jury, with similar results when trying to persuade a governmental agency or an opposing party in a negotiation. Lawyers who are willing to bend or break the rules through discovery abuse, disingenuous arguments, or failing to properly conference often dramatically ramp up the risk that the judge or jury will stop believing anything that lawyer says—and, necessarily, anything his or her client says, as well. This loss of credibility can impact both mundane discovery hearings to the ultimate outcome at trial, while during a business deal negotiation, “doing anything it takes” can easily lead to eventual claims of fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation. An ethical lawyer protects your bottom line by avoiding these risks while still zealously fighting for your position.

3.  Sanctions: Want to avoid paying a penalty on top of paying your lawyers’ fees and litigation costs? Don’t risk running afoul of potential monetary (or worse) sanctions pursuant to TEX. R. CIV. P.  215 or FED. R. CIV. P. 37. These discovery sanctions can be against the lawyer, the client, or both for improperly responding to discovery or wrongfully withholding documents. An ethical lawyer will conscientiously advise you on the proper limits of discoverable information to avoid the risk of a judge finding that the only way to bring you both back in line is through a hefty penalty.

Successful businesses are run on a balance of financial savvy, customer knowledge, and endless effort. This same balancing act of zealous advocacy, ethical actions, and client devotion are the traits smart businesses and individuals seek out when hiring a lawyer who can be a partner for the benefit of your bottom line.

Bill S. Richmond is a business litigation attorney at Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank LLP.


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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