Your complaint: Is the amount you demand what you’ll get?

I just overheard a conversation tidbit that made me want to interrupt.

But I didn’t. Instead, I’m reporting it:

A young woman was cheerfully telling a guy that she had sued someone for $1.5 million. The word “malpractice” was mentioned. The guy murmured some sort of congratulations about the amount.

“Well,” she said, “the lawyer gets twenty or thirty percent, so I won’t get the whole amount, but it’ll be enough to buy me a small condo.”

Um, what? First, although she did understand that her case was on contingency, i.e., the lawyer paid the expenses and got a percentage of the final award or settlement, unless her retainer with the lawyer is idiosyncratic, her lawyer will probably get 33-1/3 percent, not thirty, and only after he gets all his costs and expenses paid back.

And didn’t her lawyer explain the difference — often vast — between the amount of money you ask for in a legal complaint and the amount of money you might actually get? And how long it takes to get it?

Apparently not. Or the lawyer did and the client wasn’t really listening.

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