Dec 31, 2020

One of the issues I talk about in my book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System” is what kind of information is important for a prospective client to receive from his/her lawyer before he/she decides to pursue a lawsuit. One of those issues is a reasonable estimate of the possible cost involved in pursuing the case. Is it wrong of a client to expect to have some realistic idea of the total possible cost that might be involved in pursuing a lawsuit? Clients do need to have a fairly reasonable estimate so they can make a proper decision about bringing a lawsuit. Why is the legal profession not sensitive to this need?

During my discussions with the law firm (and the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board) about this issue, I was advised that lawyers are not required to provide specific or correct costs that might be involved. I am surprised that these organizations use words such as “correct” or “incorrect” or “specific” or “true cost” etc when talking about an estimate. The word “estimate” basically means an “approximation” – it is not expected to be “correct” or “exact” or “true cost”. The point is that an estimate needs to be “realistic” – needs to be in the “ballpark” – and that is the point. It is true that there are uncertainties in the litigation process; but I know that lawyers are smart people, and I believe that there are no reasons whatsoever why these smart people cannot come up with more realistic cost estimates. If they spend a few minutes to think about all the possible “uncertainties”, I am sure they will be able to come up with much more appropriate estimates for their clients. So the question is: do they really want to provide realistic estimates or are there other motivations driving their actions?

The bottom line is that I believe that lawyers and law firms can do a better job of this, if they really want to.

© 2017 - Sumi Mukherjee
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