Time: Contrary to what is portrayed on television, the litigation does not typically begin and end in a matter of days and weeks. One of the surprises many clients face when involved in litigation is a great deal of time it takes to get through the legal process. It is not uncommon, for example, for a case to two or three years to take a case from its beginning to final judgment. Even then, an appeal can be taken to a higher court and the process begun again. Once the appeal is complete, it is not uncommon for the higher court to send the case back to the original court for further proceedings, consuming even more time and resources.
Expense: Linked to the amount of time a case takes is the expense involved. Generally, lawyers bill for nearly every moment of the time they spend working on a case. At $400-600 an hour, this can quickly add up to a lot of money. Litigation costs, in fact, can exceed tens, and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, some, or all, of which may not be awarded by the court, even if the client is victorious.
Legal fees are not the only expense that might be incurred during the course of litigation. Most cases will require that depositions of the parties, key witnesses and experts be conducted, all of which will involve the expense of the attorney on an hourly basis, as well as that of a court reporter who will attend the deposition, and later provided a written transcript of the testimony.
As stated, it is also not uncommon for attorneys to enlist the help of an expert witness. These are oftentimes professionals, such as doctors, or engineers, or accountants who can help the judge or jury clarify certain key questions in a case. While experts are extremely helpful, they are generally very expensive and will demand payment for the time they spend testifying, conducting their analysis, and providing a written analysis.
It is also important to realize that just because you are the prevailing party, does not mean, typically, that your opponent will simply bring their checkbook to court on the final day and write you a check for the amount the judge or jury decides. Many years can be spent just trying to collect money awarded in a case.
For the reasons stated, the decision of whether or not to take someone to court, should be one made only after careful consideration is given to the considerable time and expense involved.