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A general contractor has a problem on a project, but it is not a typical problem. The general contractor has reason to believe a subcontractor is going out of the way to create an unfair situation and is not accepting any responsibility or negotiating in good faith. Neither the project team nor executive team could reach a resolution. 

The general contractor decides to engage an attorney. 

Unsure of what type of attorney to engage, the general contractor seeks recommendations – one being to hire a “shark” attorney. The attorney has a reputation for making subcontractors’ life as bad as the situation it created. And while it may be appealing to give the subcontractor a taste of its own medicine, it almost never makes sense. 

“Shark” attorneys are known for being overly aggressive, engaging in unreasonable negotiations and attempting to prevail on every issue — no matter the cost. But as explained below, “shark” attorneys cause broken business relationships, cost a business unnecessary time and energy, and often accrue astronomical — and unnecessary — legal fees. 

Broken Business Relationships

Shark attorneys cause broken business relationships. Just as subcontractor can take a workable project-level problem and made it an expensive legal problem by its failure to operate in good faith, a shark attorney will cause the same problem by trying to prevail on every issue. Some issues are not substantive; others do not move the needle in terms of settling the case or preparing it for trial. Those issues are not usually worth fighting about. But most of a shark attorney’s litigation strategy is targeted to irritate the opposing party. That strategy does not efficiently resolve business disputes. It wears down and breaks business relationships.

Unnecessary Time and Energy

Shark attorneys needlessly eat up time and energy. Litigation requires significant executive time to coordinate strategy and engage in significant fact investigation. It also requires the assembly of documents and witnesses from both the executive and project teams. That time and energy is justified when a strategy is designed to efficiently resolve the litigation. That time and energy is not justified when the strategy is not targeted to end the dispute. 

Astronomical Legal Fees

Paying lawyers to resolve complex project problems is expensive. Paying lawyers to resolve complex problems and unnecessarily make the opposing party’s client miserable is significantly more expensive. Attorneys should create a budget and framework to efficiently resolve the case, not charge for unnecessary unpleasantness to the opposing party — especially when that unpleasantness will cost several times more in attorney fees to resolve a case. 

Before engaging an attorney or requesting a referral, consider the interests. The true interests are to efficiently resolve the dispute, maintain valuable business relationships and get the problem resolved so the real work can be done. There shouldn’t be an interest in signing a blank check over to a shark attorney and telling them to have fun on the company’s dime.

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