Doing Nothing Can Be Your Best Legal Action

Doing Nothing Can Be Your Best Legal Action









When someone calls or e-mails me for legal guidance, they usually are hoping I can recommend them an attorney.  Selfishly I hope that I can because that is how my business makes money.  But I always tell the truth, even when that means telling a caller that they don’t need an attorney or shouldn’t get one.

This happened recently when I talked to a guy whose son is apparently a standout athlete at his school.  Beginning with his freshman year he began receiving recruiting calls from scores of major colleges and is in the discussion for junior national teams (I’m not naming the sport to protect his identity).  The kid was also feeling bullied by teammates and when the Dad approached the coach about it, the coach did nothing to stop it.  So the Dad, trying to protect his kid, didn’t allow his son to go on a road trip to an out of town tournament.  As a result the kid was kicked off the team.

Now the family believes that the coach is bad mouthing the kid as some schools have told them they will no longer be recruiting the boy.  He still plays for his club team, but not having the school coach in his corner makes him look bad.  So the family wants to sue the coach for ruining their opportunities to get in to the school of their choice on scholarship.

My advice to the family was to do nothing.  First, these are really hard cases to win as usually you can’t prove what was really said and often that speech is protected.  You also would be hard pressed to get a college coach to testify that they are no longer recruiting you because your coach bad mouthed you.  But beyond that, the real goal of this family is not to sue the coach, but to achieve success for the son.  If they do sue, colleges will be aware of it and the coaches will probably look at the kid as a problem not worth having.  Whether or not that opinion is right or wrong does not matter.

Sometimes in life you need to just eat the shit sandwich and move on.  Every now and then I’ll be tempted to get in to a verbal war of words (or e-mail) with someone that calls me and doesn’t like that I can’t help or that I’m not telling them what they want to hear.  But as much as it would feel good in the moment to respond, it’s not going to help me long term and the reality is that I will get over it.  It’s a good way for most people to handle petty problems.  The athlete has a much bigger problem than me, but it’s still one that suing could make worse.

Other times the decision not to hire a lawyer doesn’t have anything to do with thinking long term goal wise, but rather it’s economical.  You might lend a friend $100 and not get paid back.  But to sue them, the filing fees would cost more and lawyer fees would be ten times as much.  So it’s usually best to just realize you got screwed.  Sure you can sue out of principle, but is losing even more money worth it?  Unless you have money to burn, the answer is probably no.

So I’m sure it’s weird for a lawyer to tell you not to hire them, but in this case and many others it’s the best thing to do.  And it likely won’t feel great now, but when you look back in a year or too and all the emotion of the situation is gone, it will make lots of sense. 

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