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You are here: Law & Politics Legal The Ethics of the Lawsuit
In the US, it seems to be a commonly held belief that lawsuits are the ultimate means for redressing wrongs. Most who embark on lawsuits are convinced they are completely in the right, and yet reality may be far more subtle and elusive.

Robert N. Chan, a founding partner of Ferber Chan Essner & Coller, LLP and head of its litigation department, believes that the best resolution for a lawsuit doesn’t always mean going to trial. “As the great majority of lawsuits are settled prior to verdict, litigation must be viewed as an ongoing settlement negotiation,” he said. “Lawyers often have to engage in two parallel negotiations: One, with their clients to encourage them to see reality – justice is something you may get in heaven but not necessarily in the courtroom – and to ensure that the return on their litigation dollars will make their investments in their lawsuits worthwhile; and a second one with their adversaries to make them also see reality…or to obscure their view of reality, as the case may require.”

According to Chan, litigators’ efforts ought to be directed at least as much toward improving their clients’ settlement posture as toward preparation for trial. While no single strategy works in every case, he views a lawsuit as a way to maneuver the opposition into a weak position where they will accept compromises favorable to his clients. By forcing his adversaries to confront the weaknesses in their cases early in the litigation process, to run up ruinous legal fees, while those of his clients remain relatively reasonable, to bear the sometimes intolerable burden of discovery, and to risk negative publicity; he maneuvers them into settlements advantageous to his clients.

According to Chan, settlement is often the best way to resolve a dispute, partly because of the inherent inefficiencies of the litigation system. “Rather than ‘In God We Trust’ being emblazoned on courtroom walls, ‘Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here’ might be more accurate,” he said. “Some view the New York State court system as a great, lumbering, dumb beast, but it might in fact be an intelligent creature, with the well thought-out goal of dealing with the overwhelming flood of lawsuits by making the litigation process so inefficient, irritating and expensive that any litigants in their right minds will run screaming from the courtroom thus clearing the judges’ caseloads.”

Chan's shoot-from-the-hip sense of humor doesn't end there, either. He is a well-known writer of thrillers. If you love the kind of tangled mysteries that keep you on the edge of your chair, combining a wicked sense of satire, crazily twisted plots, off-kilter characters with lawyers and guns (whether aimed at them or not) --  look on his website, His sixth and latest book is "Painting a Burning House."

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