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3 Reasons Why Asking for Delays is Hurting You and Your Clients

June 10, 2014

delay

Recently, I had an encounter with opposing counsel in a litigation that made me reconsider a common practice: asking for a delay (also referred to as a continuance).

My adversary and I agreed under a Consent Order to set aside a default and have the defendant make a responsive pleading (an answer or a dispositive motion) by a certain date. I was representing the Plaintiff. Three days before the due date for the pleading, Defendant’s counsel asked me to extend the deadline for another week.

I declined. I had a good reason. Defendant’s counsel wrote a letter to the judge asking for time. I responded with a letter. Defendant’s counsel wrote another letter. I was sure the judge would give him more time.

The judge declined to extend the date in the Consent Order and defendant’s counsel was forced to put together his pleading in very little time.

Which got me thinking- What are the unintended consequences when you ask for a delay? Are you helping your case and your client?

I conclude that asking for delays really hurts your case for these three reasons:

1. You look like you are overwhelmed. This is pretty obvious. You are given a reasonable amount of time to file a pleading (e.g. 2 weeks, 30 days) and you can mount the resources to make it happen. What this say about you? Litigation is a battle and you are sending the signal that you aren’t ready for battle.

2. You look like you are stalling. Lawyers stall all the time. They pretty much teach it in law school. It can be an effective tactic when you have a lousy case or time is working for you. But, if you aren’t stalling and your adversary thinks you are, you are signaling (incorrectly) that you think you have a weak case. That’s never a good idea.

3. You are wasting your time (and more importantly your client’s money). Look at the story I told: Time spent on the phone arguing with opposing counsel about the delay, two letters to the judge, and a rushed pleading. How much more time could the original plan actually have taken? Instead, the client pays for the whole escapade and the filing is made in a rushed manner. You lose and your client pays.

Clearly, there are times when seeking a delay is absolutely necessary. There could be hundreds of reasons. But, lawyers who continually seek delays do so at their own risk and the peril of their clients.

What can an overwhelmed practitioner do then?

There are dozens of legal firms that assist lawyers. I happen to manage one (Legal Outsourcing Partners, LLC- http://www.lop-llc.com). My firm can help you to look like you have robust resources. You never have to ask for a delay. You can turn the perception of a small, undermanned firm into a powerhouse that can meet every deadline with high quality work product.

Or, you can keep asking for delays.

Avrum Aaron, Esq., is the COO of Legal Outsourcing Partners, LLC (www.lop-llc.com). He can be reached at avrum@lop-llc.com or at 201-379-9230.

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