Job half done: Challenging the status quo for lawyers

Posted on August 29, 2019

Trial lawyers are not pilots – at least, not usually. However, most of them do fly for work, and often.

I flew AH64 Apache helicopters for the U.S. Cavalry in the 1990s. Every one of my flight instructors – many of whom were Vietnam veterans – reminded us that taking off is optional, but landing is mandatory. Yet imagine the flight attendant on your next flight announcing over the intercom: 

“Welcome to Cincinnati. We’ve almost landed.” 

Or:

“We have landed safely off the runway.”

What? As airplane passengers, we expect to be on the center of the runway every time we land. Otherwise, it is considered a “crash landing” – which, while it is technically still a landing, it’s not the kind you hoped for.   

What kind of “landing” is your plaintiff expecting at the conclusion of his or her lawsuit? Does the family have an expectation of being taken care of at the end of litigation? Will a pile of cash do that for them? 

“Here are two million dollars after my fee. Good luck!”  

If you hear yourself saying something like the above, and thinking, “I just couldn’t get my client to listen,” or, “It’s not up to me what my client does with the money,” then think about it this way: What is the ultimate job of the lawyer, who essentially serves as the pilot on the client’s side of the litigation? The answer is to get them to the end safely every time, right?

It is my firm belief that handing millions of dollars to clients and wiping your hands of the case is a job half done. Gone are the days of bringing clients in and giving them a check for the balance of their proceeds. The duty of providing a thorough process at the end of litigation has to become the new standard of care for trial lawyers. You’ve worked hard to earn this money for your client. Don’t you want to ensure they are then set up for success, and won’t use the funds irresponsibly? 

Consider a comprehensive settlement planner as part of your team. Think of us as the aircraft marshallers who direct the plane, once landed, to the gate. A settlement planner should be the final component of litigation. Read more about Milestone’s approach to settlement planning here.