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How to Convince Clients Not to Pursue Revenge via the Courts

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Just about every lawyer out there has had to give a client 'the talk.' You know the one where you explain to them that the civil courts aren't really about justice, but rather about moving money around. That, at the end of the day, justice not only comes at a price, but it is the price.

When it comes to revenge-hungry clients, it can often feel like no amount of reason can get through their "civil ignorance." Public vindication and emotions can often be a significant barrier to settlement. Unfortunately, when you're charging by the hour, you have a fiduciary duty to caution that revenge-driven client about their goals being inapposite to their financial or personal interests.

Throwing Good Money After Bad

If you've been a lawyer for more than a month, you probably are well of aware of the phrase: Throwing good money after bad. When it comes to that client seeking "Justice" (with a capital J and air-quotes), explaining to them that your services will cost more than the client stands to gain is not always that simple, especially because you'd likely be the one who was having the money thrown at them.

If you're in this situation, often giving the client some time along with a financial breakdown of the costs and expenses involved could be helpful in dissuading the client from filing a court action. Also, offering to help resolve the matter pre-litigation, and waiving your fees for doing so if the matter does not get resolved pre-lit, can be a significant motivator, and potentially worth the risk as revenge driven clients are, by-far, some of the most difficult to handle. Also, you'll probably be able to stomach the loss of hours if the case doesn't settle pre-lit and goes into litigation as there'll more billable hours than you know what to do with.

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

While business, life, and the legal system may have changed quite a bit since the poet George Herbert was around, one of his most notable quotes rings true today: Living well is the best revenge. Surprisingly, this notion can often really resonate with some clients who see the court as their chance to be heard and obtain "Justice."

A recently filed case provides a good example to show clients. A jilted husband recently sued a NFL player because his wife had an affair with the player. Under North Carolina law, alienation of affection is still a cause of action. And though the man's case seems to meet all the elements, filing the case has brought him into the national spotlight. The attention has even resulted in well read publications, like Maxim, to shame him for filing the claim. At the end of the case, the man may make a few bucks, but at what cost?

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