It's time to revisit process. Remember, I'm the process girl. The most important part of any process for dispute resolution is the first step: clarifying your interests and goals for the resolution of the dispute. If you don't take your time with this step and really flesh it out, then you have no idea what represents an acceptable resolution. You might obtain a resolution or ask a judge for a result that doesn't actually meet your needs. Do you want that to happen? Do you want to spend the time and effort (and many times, money) on resolving the dispute, only to find it doesn't work for you? Heck no.
Here's the other thing, no matter what the process choice, settlement is ALWAYS a possibility, even if you're going to litigation, even if it's the first day of trial. If you know your goal and the interests that underlie it, you can assess options quickly, make tweaks to proposals and make decisions efficiently. If you don't, you're destined to spin your wheels and dither (I hate dithering, even though I'm probably guilty of it myself).
I was reminded of all of this yesterday. I had a case with an attorney who is renowned for taking little to no interest in a case until the day of trial. Now, this attorney is a really good trial attorney, and he has other attorneys who prepare the case for trial so he can just show up and try it. He is, however, the only attorney on his side with any authority to reach a settlement. That means that if you want to settle with this attorney, you are necessarily unable to do so until the night before trial or the morning of trial. That's tricky, because if you use your trial time to try and settle and don't settle the case, you have lost your trial slot and won't get another for month, and you will have annoyed the court. Usually, a delay and pissing off the court are not in your client's best interest. Ergo, if you're going to try to settle, you had better be reasonably certain it's possible, and more, that you know whether it's going to happen in a reasonably short period of time. The only way that can happen is if you know your client's goal for the representation. As I like to say, a case about the money is never really about the money; the money stands for something.
What does all this mean for you? It means that you want your attorney to spend a lot of time getting to know you, getting to know what is important to you, discovering what is working and not working about your present circumstance and why. You want your attorney to dig deep with you about your hopes, wishes and dreams. I know, that doesn't sound like "legal" work; it may feel like it takes a lot of time. Maybe you feel like it's a waste of time. It's not. Spending that time with you lays important groundwork that enables you to settle your case in a way that meets your core needs, and it lets us here in the Trenches work efficiently. Spending the time now will save you time, effort and money later. It's a worthwhile investment in your future. Here in the Trenches.