Part 6: Do I Have Other Options That Might Work?
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In this post, we consider other ways to get relief besides filing a lawsuit. You can see now that filing a lawsuit is a huge commitment of time and money for you and the lawyer. You can explore other ways to accomplish your goals. A lawyer can help you discover and implement alternatives to litigation. Here are some common options:
The Demand Letter
Even when litigation is on the horizon, many lawyers start by presenting the case to the potential defendant to try to resolve the problem before the heat is turned up. This approach can get good results, particularly if the defendant realizes he or she will be on the hook in a lawsuit. Coming from a lawyer, these letters also show you are serious, and may put more pressure on the other side to respond. In cases where you may not have a strong legal claim, sending a demand letter may be a good alternative. But because they are simply invitations to work out the dispute, the other side can choose to ignore them.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
In recent years, people have tried alternatives to litigation known as “alternative dispute resolution” or ADR. This includes arbitration or mediation. Because most civil lawsuits settle before going to trial, they are probably destined for mediation at some point, so approaching the potential defendant with the option of mediation may be appealing.
For some claims, this step is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit, such as in employment discrimination cases, so starting here is a natural first step. But in others where it is optional, it can also be a way to put pressure on a defendant in a more formal way, and potentially achieve your goals with a reduced risk.
For example, a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights might be more effective than filing a lawsuit against a school (and in some cases, a lawsuit is not an option). You are not as likely to get money, but may get other types of problem-solving relief.
Lobbying or Policy Work
In many cases, a lawsuit is the most effective and efficient use of time and resources to make widespread changes happen. This is particularly true when fundamental constitutional rights are involved. But change can still happen through the good ol’ political process. Investing the time and money that you would have spent on a lawsuit could be redirected toward persuading state and federal lawmakers to change policy.
This may only take the investment of time—such as testifying before the state legislature on a bill of interest, or attending a local school board meeting to present a topic of concern. Our political system lets individual citizens participate in the political process. Don’t underestimate yourself as a citizen.
The court of public opinion is a powerful motivator. Sometimes, all it takes to get justice is to shed light on an issue. High-profile lawsuits have proved effective at bringing injustice out of the shadows, but media coverage and community involvement may be equally effective in some cases. If you are not sure where to start, media consultants can help run campaigns to change things.
One or more of these options could work for you. But what if you’re just not making progress? These options also are less likely to get you paid. In the next post, we’ll talk about how you know it is time to pull the litigation trigger.
Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations