Hire a litigator now to avoid problems later

Litigator can help get the deal done and the contract secured

By Natalie Brandt, Aug. 4, 2020

I am a cynic. I see problems pretty much everywhere. Nobody wants to work with me because I’m the angel of dread. Sure, I’m pretty funny, enjoy my work and am in a good mood most of the time, but odds are high that if you’ve hired me something has gone very, very wrong in your life.

I’m a litigator. People call me only when the proverbial you know what hits the fan.

People tend to want to avoid hiring lawyers altogether. I recently asked a prospective client how he’d had the stomach to give a buddy seven figures on a handshake. “I didn’t want to mess with lawyers and muck everything up,” was the answer. Of course, the fact that he was even talking to me meant not only did things get “mucked up,” but now he was considering paying me to deal with it.

I get it. Hiring lawyers to paper deals is tantamount to conceding a lack of faith in the idea or the other party. It’s like a pre-nup before a romantic wedding. Contracts and legal speak kill the buzz of romance and big money.

But lawyers are necessary, and they know what they’re doing. Deal lawyers in particular are future-focused and want to maximize returns. By all means, pay them. Their work ensures that either things can’t go south, or if they do, there’s a path forward. Otherwise, you and I are discussing deposition schedules and refreshing your retainer.

Remember, deal lawyers are optimists. From a contracting perspective, they see the best in people. Certainly there are redlines and negotiations and imagined scenarios of “oh but what if shareholder A does X to shareholder C.” That is all designed with the future in mind. A future where money is made and even if someone breaks a rule, there’s a clause to deal with it on Page 61. Ideally, anyway.

But too often my job is dealing with things that went south despite having perfect contracts. People can, and will always, surprise you. They surprise the hell out of me all the time. But after 20 years, I’ve seen enough to be really helpful – and a bit scary – at the beginning when the deal is being inked.

More and more these days I consult early on. A sort of oracle of doom, I’d say. And I know that I am talking myself out of a job later. But that’s OK. While there is nothing quite as exciting as a new case, with its details about who did what to whom and making a plan for scorching the earth, I like to sometimes play a part in the future, get to be the optimist. Litigators can and should be a resource from the outset.

In other words, hiring a litigator today, when everyone is still thinking big, still friends, and still dreaming of matching Teslas, increases the odds that things won’t have a chance to turn sour later on. Not that life won’t get in the way, or that a pandemic won’t derail plans, but there are ways to think through and structure deals so that no matter what, I don’t get a phone call down the road because something got “mucked up.”

So yes, a litigator can help close the deal.

(Natalie Brandt can be contacted at natalie@wrightconnatser.com.)