“It’s not the money. It’s the principle.” Forgetaboutit! It’s the money, or it’s the ego issue.
There is a point at which the choice of confrontation destroys what needs most to be protected. The path to that deadly choice starts with inability to sort out what the real options are and how they might be used to advantage. Sorting out and evaluating real options requires the kind of objectivity that simply is not available amongst those who have a dog in the coming fight. Accordingly, there really is a coming fight, and the fight frequently is neither required nor useful.
Fighting by definition consumes resources by the carload and rapidly. The cost of fighting alone should be a deterring factor. But when the potential combatant has a lot of resources, or is using the resources that belong to someone other than himself – like stockholders, for example – the cost of the fight is given little weight.
I’m no coward, and I make my living fighting with people. But as an experienced litigator, I know that there are often other approaches to resolution of issues than the donnybrook. I always urge the serious consideration of those alternatives. Often I am called in when there remains little time for their serious evaluation. Often I meet “attitude” as the response to that suggestion. Sometimes I have been fired for urging consideration of alternatives when client attitude has turned that corner and decided to fight. Turning that corner is usually associated with the “battle boasts” that have accompanied combative decisions since “Beowulf”. Once the boasts are made, ego issues kick in big time. Here in Texas trying to reverse that situation is known as trying to stuff manure back into the horse. But I have been fired before, and will be again. And if I don’t insist upon consideration of potentially useful alternatives to all out war, I would be depriving my client of what he hired me for – good judgment.
Part of the problem is that after the battle boast has been issued, the same ego issues are ignited in the camp of the opposition. Where the opponents also have deep pockets, it is sometimes the case that opposing counsel isn’t able to talk his clients into reconsideration. The catch phrase is that it would be seen as a sign of weakness. One of these days I hope to be able to come up with just the right sound byte to magically convince everyone in the room that what they emotionally see as a sign of weakness is really the most good sense alternative available. The main reason it is the most good sense alternative is that if it doesn’t work, you can always return to confrontation. But at least you tried – even if it was too little and too late. No harm will be done, and the peace of mind that comes from your willingness to give non violent dispute resolution one more chance is priceless.