Our approach to the practice of law demands that we ply our skills as advocates on several different playing fields – negotiation of contracts, mediation of disputes and preparation of settlement documents with care to safeguard our client’s interests. Experience has taught us that oftentimes battles can be won before a conflict escalates to litigation if parties to a dispute engage in carefully reasoned, but forthright discussions of their claims. Thus, we believe we owe it to our clients to exhaust all avenues for resolving their case through skillful negotiation and diplomacy whenever it is possible to do so. John F. Kennedy’s famous quote is worthy counsel for those on the brink of a lawsuit: “We must never negotiate out of fear; but we must never fear to negotiate.”
Not all disputes lend themselves to negotiation at the front end. Occasionally, we encounter situations in which a client is facing some immediate and imminent threat of harm to himself, his family or property, and there is simply no time to engage the source of this threat in discourse. When such a cases arise, or in situations in which negotiations have reached an impasse or otherwise become futile, we must act quickly, competently and effectively by filing suit to protect our client’s interests.
While we are professional litigators, we are always mindful that for most of our clients the prospect of going to court can be as stressful and intimidating as any life experience they have faced. That is why we believe it is our obligation to carefully prepare our clients for this challenge.
Here are seven things we emphasize to our clients about litigation:
- It is critical to the outcome of your case that you provide your attorney with all of the facts, the “good, bad and the ugly” regarding your situation. This means also gathering any documents, emails or other communications that are remotely relevant to your claims and preserving any evidence, even if you believe it casts a negative light on your position.
- Determine at the outset a realistic goal or what may be considered a “win”. Oftentimes, clients say to us: “it’s not about the money; it is purely a matter of principle.” Experience has taught us that clients who insist on this as their motivation for filing suit are among the most problematic and usually are never satisfied with the outcome. With few exceptions, the only “benefit” a court of law can bestow a successful litigant is a monetary award. While we certainly recognize that is often poor consolation for the loss or injury that prompted your lawsuit, if you expect vindication or an apology you are setting an unrealistic expectation and are in store for disappointment.
- Rely on the counsel and advice of your attorney regarding the timeframe and sequencing of your case. Lawsuits progress in intervals that are set according to a system of court rules and scheduling orders that may seem at times arbitrary or even dilatory to clients. But each sequence from the “pleading phase” to the “discovery phase” to the “dispositive motion phase” of your case is important and requires careful planning and execution.
- Give scheduled appointments with your lawyer priority when necessary for preparation for your deposition. Cases can be won or lost based on your deposition testimony. We regard this as one of the most important jobs we perform to prepare a client for this critical aspect of their case.
- Maintain open communication with your attorney throughout the course of your case. It is not uncommon for you to discover new information or learn additional facts that are relevant to your case. As a party to a lawsuit, you have a continuing obligation to “seasonably supplement” your earlier responses to any written questions “interrogatories” and to provide any new documentation whenever you discover it.
- Use discretion when sharing with others about your lawsuit. In this age of social media, there is no such thing as a right to privacy when it comes to sharing information about your case on social media. Be assured that opposing counsel will be scouring the Internet to learn anything about you or your case that is publicly accessible.
- Recognize that your conduct during the trial is a visual testimony to the judge and jury of your character and credibility. By the time your case gets to trial, you have lived with the facts of your case for several months. But to the judge and more especially the jury, they will only have a brief, and focused glimpse into your case. Your attitude and demeanor during trial send important messages to these “strangers” to your case. Jurors often influenced as much by they “see” about your behavior in or out of the courtroom than they are by what they “hear” when you testify.
Brian Schuette is a civil litigator with over 25 years of law practice experience. He is AV-Rated by Martindale Hubbell. As the managing partner of the Kentucky office of CSA, Brian oversees the firm’s personal injury and general civil litigation practice. He has handled many wrongful death and serious personal injury cases, including motor vehicle collisions, slip and fall, product liability and dog bite cases. The majority of Brian’s cases come from client or attorney referrals. Brian is trained as a mediator (Rule 31 Listed in Tennessee) and Christian conciliator (alternative dispute resolution for churches and church members). This training has been a useful tool for Brian as he works with individual and business clients to achieve excellent results as efficiently as possible.
Josh graduated Summa Cum Laude and was awarded the President’s Citation of Merit (PCC’s highest award) and the Eagles’ Award (PCC’s highest athletic award). He was also named to Who’s Who Among America’s Colleges. He received a full academic scholarship to Thomas M. Cooley School of Law in Lansing, MI. While in law school, Josh was elected president of the Cooley chapter of the Christian Legal Society, competed on the school’s ABA National Moot Court Team, joined the Thomas M. Cooley law review, and served as a teaching pastor at a local church. In the fall of 2010, Josh had the privilege of interning at Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom, one of the nation’s premier Constitutional law firms. During his internship, he helped with litigation in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, defending a national non-profit against government officials, and providing compliance advice to non-profits and political organizations across the United States. After graduating from Cooley Magna Cum Laude, Josh started his own firm, Hershberger Law Office, in Madison, Indiana, and joined a local church as a teaching and worship pastor.
Upon graduating from law school in 2002, Amanda joined the firm of Bell, Orr, Ayers & Moore, P.S.C. (BOAM) in Bowling Green, Kentucky as a full-time attorney. At BOAM, Amanda practiced in the areas of insurance defense litigation, bankruptcy, education and school law and banking law. In 2015, Amanda joined CRAIN|SCHUETTE ATTORNEYS. Amanda is licensed to practice in all state courts in the Commonwealth of Kentucky as well as the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Amanda is also licensed to practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She is a member of the Bowling Green-Warren County Bar Association and the Kentucky Bar Association.
In 2012, Ashlea opened her own practice in Bowling Green. Since then, Ashlea has focused on serving families in adoptions, divorces, domestic violence proceedings, and dependency, neglect and abuse actions. Ashlea also serves as a private mediator, and donates her time to the Pro Bono Mediation Project in Warren County for families who are unable to afford the mediation process. Most recently, in 2017, Ashlea joined Crain | Schuette Attorneys and has expanded her areas of practice to include criminal defense, personal injury, product liability tort actions, and general civil litigation.