The settlement of the NFL referee lockout generated a sigh of relief throughout the country yesterday as the league and the referee’s union announced an agreement that put an end to the lockout. The workplace dispute resulted in three weeks of disarray, erroneous results, and a real economic impact the the league and it’s followers. The sad part is that the deal that was agreed to was available before the start of the season and could have avoided all of the problems and lost revenue if the parties had only recognized the real cost of their recalcitrance and settled early.
I see this same thing with my family law clients all the time. Like the NFL story, family law matters (divorce and child custody) are extremely emotional confrontations in which the emotion often prevents the parties from thinking clearly and seeing the true cost of the conflict. Many times I walk a client all the way to the brink of trial because they are so hung up with a “winning at all costs” mentality only to have them settle the case on the exact terms that were available months ago. Had they settled on those terms at that time they would have saved an enormous amount of money, time, and emotional investment. I suspect that clients often think you are trying to push them into settling early because you don’t believe in their case or just want to push it through so the law firm can move to the next case. But the fact of the matter is that the earlier parties can settle the case the more control they have over the outcome and the less costly the experience on all levels. Judges often ask clients if they want the court, who knows little about them and has even less interest in the client’s lives, to make decisions for them that will effect their future for years to come or would they rather make the decisions themselves based on all of their own accumulated experiences? Almost always the answer should be the latter. That way, you don’t have to wait for a game deciding blown touchdown call to motivate you to do what you could have done a long time ago.