Help, I’ve Been Sued! Or, Help Me To Sue.
“Civil litigation typically involves lawsuits for money damages. One party wants money and feels entitled to it based on the application of the facts to the law, while the other party doesn’t believe any money is owed, or at least not the amount demanded. Typically my clients want a quick resolution to their conflict, in their favor, and they don’t want to spend any more money than absolutely necessary on attorney fees. Thus, my job is to obtain for my clients as much as I can, as soon as I can, while charging them the least that I am able to charge.”
. James J. Doyle, III
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- No One Wants To Hire An Attorney
- Unfortunately, if You Have Been Sued You Probably Need To Hire An Attorney
- If You Predict That You Are About To Be Sued, It May Be Advisable To Hire An Attorney . . . Right Now
- If Litigation Ensues, Get Ready For The Long Haul
- Civil Litigation And My Firm
- How Much Do Attorneys Cost And Tell Me About Attorney-Client Fee Arrangements
- Local Counsel And Pro Hac Vice
- Title Companies
I. NO ONE WANTS TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY!
No one wants to hire an attorney. But if you cannot resolve a conflict on your own, sometimes an attorney is necessary. Though you can represent yourself in most cases, which is known as ” pro se” representation, unless you are in Justice Court (which limits damages to $10,000 and is organized to make litigation accessible to pro se parties), an attorney is more than advisable.
II. UNFORTUNATELY, IF YOU HAVE BEEN SUED YOU PROBABLY NEED TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY
If a lawsuit is filed against you, to the extent you are forced to hire an attorney (however see my ” pro se” discussion above), the main question becomes: which attorney? If money is not an option or you have a very large and complex case, a large downtown firm is more than capable of helping you (and I have a few that I can recommend). If money is an issue, you might consider hiring a smaller firm or a solo practitioner; there are many in Texas that fit the bill, including myself. I encourage you to ask around, search the Internet, and talk to as many attorneys as you can before you decide whom to hire. Keep in mind that if you hire a firm with more than one attorney, only one attorney can be your attorney in charge when it comes to your lawsuit. In other words, law firms do not represent clients in lawsuits, one lawyer or certain lawyers in the firm represent the client, and, again, only one lawyer can be designated as the attorney in charge.
III. IF YOU PREDICT THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE SUED, IT MAY BE ADVISABLE TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY RIGHT NOW
If a lawsuit has not yet been filed against you but you suspect that it is on the way, it may be advisable to hire an attorney right now to counsel you regarding, not only possible litigation options for once the suit is filed, but also possible pre-suit options and strategies of which you may not be aware. For instance, an attorney may advise immediate proactive discussions and negotiations with the opposing party to resolve the conflict before a lawsuit gets filed, saving all the parties the time and significant expense of litigation.
In addition, you might perceive yourself in a defensive posture, but counsel with an attorney could reveal grounds for your own cause of action that you did not even realize you possessed. You may even choose to file a lawsuit first, which some argue gives a party an upper hand. For instance, the first to file is known as the plaintiff, and the plaintiff has the right to speak first at trial and provide their version of events to the jury with a clean slate – an arguable advantage.
Further, prior to the filing of suit the parties can agree to formal mediation. When formal pre-suit mediation occurs, both parties usually are hopeful that the time and expense of formal litigation can be avoided. This “carrot” can sometimes help lead to a timely settlement. However, sometimes all the efforts in the world cannot stop a lawsuit from being filed, and you need to get ready for the long haul.
IV. IF LITIGATION ENSUES, GET READY FOR THE LONG HAUL
Civil litigation can be a long drawn out process that is emotionally straining and financially draining, involving lots of complicated rules, statutes, laws and strategies. It can require written discovery, oral depositions, the hiring of experts, preparation for and attendance at hearings prior to trial, and of course can culminate in a jury or bench trial (a bench trial is before the judge only, without a jury). Litigation can also continue after trial if any party appeals.
Along this long road, the case can settle at any time, if the parties reach an agreement. Typically, my clients are looking for an end to their litigation as soon as possible if the numbers are right (that is, if they are the plaintiff – they are getting enough, and if they are the defendant – they are paying just enough). My goal is to do everything necessary to prepare for trial while always keeping an eye out for all possible reasonable resolutions that may come up.
V. CIVIL LITIGATION AND MY FIRM
Typically, civil litigation involves suing for money, though injunctive relief is also available, such as asking the court to order a party to stop using a trade name or asking for the return of possessions or property. Civil litigation includes divorce and personal injury law (for example, car wrecks), however, my focus is upon business and real estate related disputes such as breach of contract or partition actions (a partition suit is brought by one co-owner of a property typically to force its sale, so that the proceeds can be divided among all co-owners). Though, I may choose to take on any civil case based on my assessment of the client, facts, law, my current caseload, and the case’s overall fit within my practice. If you think you need my help, contact my office.
VI. HOW MUCH DO ATTORNEYS COST AND TELL ME ABOUT ATTORNEY-CLIENT FEE ARRANGEMENTS
Attorneys typically bill on an (1) hourly rate, (2) contingency rate, (3) blended fee arrangement, or (4) flat fee. An hourly fee arrangement is where you only pay your attorney for the time he or she spends on your case.
Typically, civil attorneys charge an hourly rate and require an upfront retainer. For instance, if an attorney charges $350 an hour and requires a $7,000 retainer, the client will pay the $7,000 retainer when the attorney-client contract is signed, and after the attorney bills 20 hours, which at $350 per hour equals $7,000, the client must pay another $7,000, thus replenishing the retainer, and so forth and so on. When the case ends or representation ceases, the attorney will refund the entire unused retainer. How much a litigation will end up costing depends on numerous factors including how contentious the parties and the attorneys act towards one another, the court the case is filed in, and how many complex legal and factual issues are at stake.
A contingency arrangement occurs when the client does not owe the attorney for attorney fees unless there is a recovery, for example through settlement or judgment. The typical contingency fees the attorney collects from the recovery amount are 33 1¤ 3% if the recovery occurs prior to filing of suit, 40% after filing suit, and 50% after appeal. In a contingency contract the client is responsible for all costs and expenses of litigation, such as filing fees, court reporter fees, etc. — only the attorney fees are contingent upon a recovery.
Sometimes blended fee arrangements are entered into wherein a lower than usual hourly fee is charged by the attorney in exchange for a lower than typical contingency fee. For example, an attorney who typically charges $350/hour may agree to only charge $200/hour with an added contingency of 25% rather than 40% (after suit is filed).
Flat fees are more common in criminal and transactional law. I typically am not hired on a flat fee basis, but in certain circumstances I may make exception to my general rule.
VII. LOCAL COUNSEL AND PRO HAC VICE
I have experience acting as local counsel directly for my clients as well as through their attorneys. I can also facilitate having your attorney admitted to practice in Texas pro hac vice. For more information please review my webpage on Local Counsel and Pro Hac Vice or feel free to contact me.
VIII. TITLE COMPANIES
I work with and take referrals from title companies when they uncover client issues which may necessitate litigation, such as those involving possible breaches of contract or the need for partition. Please feel free to call or have your client contact me directly.
Contact The DOYLE LAW Firm