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Being a lawyer means seeking justice on behalf of clients. However, lawyers understand that justice, particularly in the civil sense, is about dollars and cents, more so than justice.
When it comes to persuading a civil client that it is in their best interest to settle, a lawyer's role as a fiduciary can really complicate matters. To that end, it is the ever-constant duty of the attorney to remind the client of the business judgment rule of litigation. If it makes good business sense for a client, they should settle.
Below, you'll find 5 tips on how to persuade clients to settle by getting them to think like a business, and not a spurned individual.
1. Show Them Comparable Results
Clients want to know you got them a good deal that's comparable to, or better than, what others have gotten before them. While a large number of settlements are confidential, it is still possible to find some numbers to show your client. You can score bonus points by showing your client trial results that are as good as the settlement offer or demand sitting on the table. Stress the fact that good business judgment dictates taking a risk-averse path.
2. Show Them the Money
Do the math for them. Break down all the numbers as best you can, estimate fees, costs, and other expenses as accurately as you can, then get your client hyped (or not). Show the client what the settlement means to them financially by giving them a range, before showing the client your math. They'll want to know how you got there, and that leads directly into the next tip.
3. Show Them the Bill
If you're billing by the hour, or have a contingency agreement that requires the payment of costs and expenses at the conclusion of trial, show the client the current bill and your anticipated bill, including all costs and expenses. And when the client asks about whether they can get those paid back if they win at trial, you have to be the bearer of bad news that more likely than not, a court won't award it all, and that there is the risk of appeal if a judgment is reached, or worse, the risk of loss and having to pay the other side's costs (or even worse, fees, if applicable).
4. Show Them the Love
When showing the client the critical information to make the right business decision just doesn't work, offering a fee discount can get the job the done and make clients feel loved. Usually, a fee discount translates to direct client savings or money directly in their pocket, and even a discount that is de minimis can go a long way to enticing a client to just say okay. After all, if you're willing to lose a few dollars, a client is likely to read that as a strong signal that they should settle.
5. Show Them the Door
Nothing says you're serious like showing a client the door. If you are truly done with the case and don't see any better result, and the client flat out refuses to see it your way, ending the representation might be the best move for the both of you. And hopefully you've written yourself a generous fee agreement that will allow you to end the representation, and still recoup your costs and retain earned fees, if you advise settlement and it is rejected.
But be careful of the ethical pitfalls of ending the representation mid-case, and, for the sake of your license, make sure you are not threatening to end representation if the client doesn't settle.