The Abstract Truth

A Few Good Lawyers

Posted by rbpasker on December 8, 2004

I had lunch today with a litigator who I had hired to help me (successfully) fend off a kind of cease-and-dissist letter (which I can’t really talk about, but such doings are a hazard for anyone involved with powerful people and who chooses not to be an ass sucker). This guy, who I had only dealt with by phone & email, turns out to be smart and a real mensch.

I was surprised to find out a couple of interesting things about his job. First, one reason why the courts move so slow is not just because they are understaffed or because judges are lazy. The waiting game is set up to help the parties settle out of court. If the courts were efficient, it would be an incentive to fight it out. Anytime two parties go to court, he said, one side or the other has screwed up, but you don’t know which until after the judgment.

Secondly, he says the 95% of the cases in the court are people just trying to get money from other people. They haven’t actually been done real harm and they are not looking for revenge or justice. They are just using the court to enhance their income because the other party is not perfect. This includes medical misdiagnoses where the patient was not harmed and “trumped up” American’s with Disabilities act cases where lawyers go looking for stores which have some minor violation and finding a plaintiff who will agree to put his name on a form letter. Such cases settle for a few thousand dollars, with very little work.

Such cases seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from the huge cases that the award caps that the Republican party is always trying to pass are meant to address, and such caps would do nothing to shield small businesses from such petty abuse.

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