Post by Chris J. Trebatoski
I was driving through Chicago listening to CBS radio to get traffic reports when I heard a study of the use of legal services during and subsequent to the Great Recession. Boring, turn off the radio is probably your immediate thought. I thought so too but then the statistics were presented. The study found that most, if not all, small to medium size businesses avoided contact with any lawyer during the past several years as a part of their costs savings efforts.
I had had a gut feeling for the past few years that was consistent with the study. In the twenty nine years that I have practiced law, the past few years have been fundamentally different in terms of the use of legal services by all businesses, large and small. My personal observation has been that fewer businesses were pursuing dispute resolution as a part of their business problem solving, settling cases that in other times would have been tried and trying cases that in other times would be settled. Part of the blame for the decrease in use of legal services has certainly been the general trend in the legal industry to strictly adhere to the hourly fee and seeming inability to be more flexible in terms of client needs and fee arrangements in difficult times. Part of the blame for the decrease in use of legal services is also the belief that litigation is simply too expensive to pursue.
Unfortunately, the combination of economic factors, concerns about fee arrangements and costs of litigation resulting in avoiding legal services has an unintended and potentially dangerous impact upon businesses and entrepreneurs. Much like putting off going to see the doctor can result in a much more difficult treatment course, putting off talking with your lawyer allows small disputes to become large disputes. Reduces the advance protections and risk control strategies available from as part of a legal checkup often resulting in significantly more cost incurred by the client both in terms of legal fees and financial damage to his or her business.
Is it time for you or your business to have a legal checkup? As your business looks toward the future it is better to assess legal risks before lawsuits happen and resolve the nagging disputes before they become full blown legal battles. And if that checkup shows there is a problem that should be addressed, make sure to explore all potential forms of dispute resolution to see which one best fits you, your business and your future.