Criminal Law LegalTech

John J. Cord T

elling a client that the defendant’s insurer wants to settle their case for \$250,000 is like ignoring the current trend of using plain English.1

You might

as well engage your client in an academic discussion of the intricacies of res judicata. In either case, your client will have no idea what you are talking about or how it applies to him. In order for a client to make an informed choice about whether to settle their case, he must know where the money is going and, most importantly, how much he will end up with at the end of the day. Failure to disclose these details can impair the client’s ability to make an informed decision.

As my cases start nearing settlement discussions, I

create an Excel spreadsheet that can help my clients to make that informed decision. My paralegal provides me with a list of the final case expenses, whether there are any outstanding medical bills that need to be paid, and whether there are any liens. My chart2

has 6 columns: • Settlement/Verdict Amount: Te first column

has the possible amounts that the case could settle for. My practice is to make the first number the highest possible settlement number, and to reduce by a set amount for each row in that column. For example, if the case is filed in District Court for a maximum of \$30,000, the top number would be \$30,000 and each number below would be reduced by \$500. Te easy way to do this is to enter \$30,000 in the first row (A2), and use a formula for the second row (=A2-500). To make the lower rows follow the same equation, select the cell with the formula (A3), and drag down about 50 or so rows. Ten, click the “Edit” drop- down menu, and select “Fill” and “Down” (short- cut keys: Cntrl-D).

1 http://www.amazon.com/Plain-English-Lawyers-Richard-Wydick/dp/0890899940 2 See the sample charts on the next two pages—the first with values filled in, and the second with the formulas necessary to create your own chart.

• Case Expenses: The second column is for case expenses, for example expert fees, photocopying and long-distance calls. This is an exact amount, so you don’t need a formula. Simply put the total expenses in the first row (B2), and then fill down.

• Medical Bills: The third column is for any outstanding medical expenses that need to be paid back. Simply put the number in the first row (C2) and then fill down.

• Medical Liens: The fourth column is for medical liens, whether from private insurance, Medicare, or medical assistance. I keep a separate column for this because the amount sometimes changes separate and apart from the medical expenses, whether because it is negotiated down, or some medical expenses are removed. As before, fill down.

• Pre-Suit Net to Client: Many law firms have a different contingent fee, based on whether the case settles pre-suit or post-suit. If your retainer agreements have this provision, then you should have two separate columns to reflect the difference. This is where Excel’s formulas come into play — for the first row (E2), enter the following formula: (=A2-(A2/3)-(B2+C2+D2)). This assumes a pre-suit attorneys’ fee of one- third. Then, fill that formula down.

Trial Reporter / Summer 2011 53

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