Contrary to popular thought, it seems that there are less cases filed than in previous years. Is New Jersey and the rest of the country becoming less litigious? Or, is there something else going on? Apparently, filings of civil suits in New Jersey declined 29 percent from 2008 to 2018. That reduction is almost 1/3!!
While there are many explanations for why there are less cases filed in state courts, the one thing that we keep finding over and over again is that many of our clients have real measurable disputes that represent significant damages. Most individuals and small businesses have situations with contractors, vendors, employees/employers, landlords, tenants, etc. that require legal representation because the amount in issue is significant by anyone’s standards. However, the inefficiency of litigation and the length of time that it takes to complete a case either by trial or settlement causes people to rethink moving forward based on the expense of an attorney and experts. For example, a client may have a dispute worth approximately $30,000, and to most people, $30,000 is a significant amount of money to walk away from. However, in the reality of litigation, it is not a significant sum when you compare it with the expected legal fees that one would incur in a probable two to three-year litigation. Ultimately, the time and money required to pursue one’s legal rights causes many to rethink if it’s worth pursuing it at all.
This is unfortunate, and we hope that the trend does not continue. We hope that people will not walk away from their legal rights or allow others to improperly or illegally deprive them of their rights and benefits. Such cases require a holistic view of not only the case, but the realities of litigation and the expected outcome of the matter. There are various billing models that no longer make it cost prohibitive for litigants to pursue their legal rights in certain civil or commercial matters. Every case is different, and while attorneys should be paid for their services, there are ways to make pursuing a matter more attainable for people. There are strategies and/or different types of retainer agreements that could allow an attorney to take cases that in the past would not “make sense.” The days of strictly an hourly retainer agreement that most cannot afford and an unrealistic contingency agreement have been replaced by more creative and reasonable retainer agreements that blend elements of both.
Ultimately, we encourage people to contact their attorney and explore such opportunities. Our firm prides itself at identifying these economic issues and forging a cohesive plan to ensure that reasonable fees are paid, but most importantly, that our clients “get their day in court.”
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