Determining the amount of time you will dedicate to a lawsuit depends in part on which court you are in. Many cases will settle or be resolved by the judge before they ever go to trial. But because we cannot foretell the future, we have to look at the lifespan of a case that actually goes to trial. In the Maricopa County Superior Court, motivated parties can usually get a trial date for a civil case within a year of filing the complaint. In federal court, it may take a while longer. During that year or so, you as the client will be helping your lawyer gather evidence, respond to requests for information from your opponent, assisting the lawyer in preparing or responding to motions made to the judge, and attending depositions or hearings. Many cases require the clients to dedicate many days or even weeks to these efforts.
Once a trial date is set, you can expect to again dedicate many hours to preparing yourself to testify, and assisting the lawyer in fine-tuning the trial presentation. A rule of thumb for lawyers is that it will take at least three times the number of trial days to prepare for a trial: a three-day trial will require nine full days of preparation, a five-day trial fifteen, and so forth. You will spend at least several hours of that time with your lawyer preparing to present your testimony and to withstand cross-examination. You may also be called upon to assist in other parts of trial preparation.
Often overlooked in determining the time commitment for a lawsuit is the time you will spend worrying. You will worry about the pace of the proceedings, about how the judge will rule on motions that are filed, about the testimony of witnesses, both friendly and unfriendly, and about the overall outcome of the controversy. Some people lose little sleep over these matters. They are a tiny minority. Most worry a lot; some worry themselves sick. This stress invades work, family and vacation schedules and often places great strain on relationships. At times, many will likely feel that the lawsuit has taken over their lives with no obvious end in sight.
The loss of time often causes other losses as well. Time spent on the lawsuit is time taken from other pursuits. Some of those may be very profitable. Because you only have so many hours a day, dedicating enough time to care for a lawsuit may well keep you from properly running your business or taking advantage of other profitable opportunities.
Before deciding to go to court, you must weigh the time it will take from your life. In most cases, the time commitment will be considerable, usually much more than you might otherwise imagine. And what you get in return may not be worth much in exchange. The question you should ask are: (1) Can you outlast the competition, and (2) If you do, will the reward be worth the effort? The answers to those questions may well determine whether you decide to go to court or not.
In some situations, however, you may find that a lawsuit is the only practical option. If, despite all your efforts, a lawsuit still seems to be the best solution, what will it be like, and what will you have to do? We’ll cover that in the next installment.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Calculating the Time Cost for Litigation or any other litigation matter, please feel free to contact us at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.