Conference room where a Settlement Conference may take placeIt's the start of the new year and with the change of the calendar, many people see their lawsuits go into another year. We're currently still dealing with a backlog of cases in many courts after the chaos of the past few years. This has led to many cases taking much longer than they would normally have taken. I remember being taunted by an adversary back in 2017 that he would have my client's business shut down within 2 weeks with the lawsuit he would be filing. Well, it's now 2023 and that lawsuit is still going strong and is still in the discovery phase.

Whether you are personally a party in a lawsuit or your business is the party, as lawsuits continue on, you will likely get to a point where you will want to consider a settlement of the lawsuit. It's a naturally progression of any case that your judge will want to explore whether a settlement can be reached, and if so, they may schedule you for a settlement conference.

What is a Settlement Conference?

Settlement conferences are a common and important part of the legal process, particularly in civil cases. They are typically held before a trial to see if the parties can resolve their dispute without the need for a full trial. Settlement conferences are usually held in front of a neutral third party, such as a judge or mediator, and are designed to help the parties reach an agreement that is satisfactory to both sides.

There are several reasons why settlement conferences are important:

  1. They can save time and money. Trials can be costly and time-consuming, and both parties may incur significant legal fees. A settlement conference allows the parties to resolve their dispute without the need for a trial, which can save both time and money. This is especially important for small businesses and individuals who may not have the financial resources to go through a lengthy trial.

  2. They can preserve relationships. Trials can be emotionally draining and may damage relationships between the parties. A settlement conference offers an opportunity to resolve the dispute without the animosity and tension that can arise during a trial. This can be especially important in cases where the parties have an ongoing relationship, such as a contract dispute between two business partners.

  3. They are less formal and more flexible. Settlement conferences are generally less formal than a trial, which can make it easier for the parties to find common ground and reach an agreement. They also offer more flexibility in terms of the types of resolution that can be reached, as the parties are free to negotiate and come up with a mutually satisfactory solution. This can be particularly beneficial in cases where the parties have different needs or priorities that may not be fully addressed in a trial.

  4. They can result in a more satisfactory resolution. Because the parties are able to negotiate and find a resolution that meets their needs, settlement conferences often result in a resolution that is more satisfactory to both sides than a decision handed down by a judge or jury. This can be especially important in cases where the parties have different perspectives on the events leading up to the dispute, and may not agree with a decision made by a third party.

Settlement conferences are an important part of the legal process because they can save time, money, and emotional energy, preserve relationships, and result in a more satisfactory resolution for both parties. If you are involved in a legal dispute, it may be worth considering attending a settlement conference before proceeding to trial. While it is not always possible to reach an agreement, settlement conferences offer a valuable opportunity for the parties to come to a resolution that is mutually beneficial.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are already involved in a lawsuit or are thinking about filing a lawsuit, it's important that you talk to a business attorney and you understand the role of a settlement conference in the lawsuit. Let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session online or by calling my Edina, Minnesota office at (612) 294-6982 or my New York City office at (646) 847-3560. My office will be happy to find a convenient time for us to have a phone call to review the best options and next steps for you in your lawsuit.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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