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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

September 4, 2003

Apologies Are Good for Clients’ Consciences and Court Dockets

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:22 pm

NewsWise reports on two new studies, which “found that an apology favorably affects the prospects of averting lawsuits and promoting settlements.” (Full Apologies Deter Lawsuits, New Studies Find, Aug. 26, 2003)

“Several factors, such as the nature of the apology, the severity of the injury and other evidence of responsibility, affect the capacity of an apology to facilitate settlement,” said Jennifer Robbennolt, professor of law at MU, who conducted the studies. “Policymakers and litigants must take into account these complex issues when making decisions about the appropriate role of apologies in settling civil disputes.”

Robbennolt’s article on her studies, entitled “Apologies and Legal Settlement: An Empirical Examination,” is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the Michigan Law Review.  


The lesson: “full apology” needs to be on the good lawyer’s list of options and strategies.  (Thanks to Tara Calishain and her new PR weird and wonderful and off the wires — for the pointer.  Tara notes that Monty Python was right.) 

  • Supplement:  After posting this item, it occurred to me that the studies’ finding is such a truism that perhaps only lawyers would need convincing on the point — only people steeped in the myths of an adversarial dispute resolution system (and also making their living from creating and extending disputes) would be likely to deny the benefits of apologies.  Certainly, mediators (with formal training or informal common sense) know this point well and use it whenever possible.   

  • Jerry Lawson left a Comment that I’d like to share: “Studies have shown that the injured party’s perception of their doctor’s attitude is a key factor in whether they file a malpractice action. Even if there was gross negigence and serious injury, people are much less likely to sue if they believe that the doctor cared about them and did his best to try to help them. I haven’t seen any studies on lawyers, but I suspect the result would be similar.”

Un-Bundle of Joy: A Win-Win for Lawyer and Client

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 8:36 pm

Law Practice Management Magazine features an excellent article by unbundling guru Forrest S. Mosten, called “What’s the Big Deal About Unbundling.” (July/August 2003; reprinted in Utah State Bar Journal) Mosten explains that performing discrete tasks for clients is nothing new. He then goes on to argue that unbundling will meet the needs of a new breed of clients, who are uncomfortable with the traditional model of the lawyer as High Priest and who “are no longer willing to be treated like children:”

“Today, clients are more active, more educated in the art of “clienthood,” more inquisitive and more demanding in their quest to control the purchase and supervision of legal services.

“Unbundling meets the needs of this new breed of client. In contrast to the traditional attitude that client anxiety is somehow reduced by a lack of information and attention, unbundling empowers the client in an unbundled case. The client is the architect of the scope and tenor of the relationship — the one who decides how the case is to be managed and what role, if any, the lawyer will play. Even more novel — the lawyer not only agrees to this power shift but invites the public to enter the office on that basis.”

In addition to detailing the benefits unbundling brings to clients (cost savings, control over the process and over choices), Mosten explains why unbundling can also improve profitability and satisfaction for the lawyer. For those who wonder how unbundling works, the article gives Suzanne Burn’s list of the steps in a typical unbundled client-lawyer relationship.

Mosten’s article is a must for any lawyer or firm that is open to the concept of unbundling, but isn’t sure if the process is a good fit or just needs a good push. It’s even more important for the firm that has rejected the idea up until now as unworkable or undesirable financially and professionally. For those who want to know more, the ABA Law Practice Management Section has published Mosten’s book Unbundling Legal Services: A Guide to Delivering Legal Services a la Carte (2000).

  • Richard Granat at eLawyerBlog has been experimenting with offering unbundled services on his own website. It’s worth a look.

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