Hi. I’m James Maxeiner. Along with Gerald Russello, I’m guest blogging this week. Although I teach law now, formerly I was a litigation lawyer and in house counsel, so I look at things from a practical perspective. Thanks to additional foreign education and international practice, I look abroad for ideas that might help our system work better. You can find out more about me at http://law.ubalt.edu/faculty/profiles/maxeiner.cfm
My litigation practice background—which was mostly for foreign clients—is the theme of my first post.
What’s the difference between a domestic and a foreign client? When you touch on a hot button issue, e.g., crazy lawsuits, discovery, unjustifiable and unreviewable jury verdicts, or incredible costs, the American client will squawk, but will accept the U.S. lawyer’s consolation that, “sometimes it’s crazy, but that’s the price we pay for our legal system.” The foreign client—at least one from a well-functioning system—will not.
The foreign client will tell the U.S. lawyer, what do you mean? Your system is primitive and unjust. It’s crazy that someone can bring a lawsuit with no plausible legal ground. The foreign client will say, its expensive and idiotic that the adversary’s lawyer can make me produce thousands of documents with no apparent connection to the lawsuit. It’s unjust that the jury gives a verdict that makes no sense and no court can review the “facts” the jury found and its application of law. The foreign client will scream to high heaven when he or she wins: “what do you mean I won? After paying you, court costs and experts’ fees, I have only $30,000 of the $100,000 the defendant owes me. That’s not justice!
There’s another difference: the sophisticated foreign client will not only give the U.S. lawyer a piece of his or her mind, he or she will tell the lawyer how things can be done better. He or she will say, we don’t have many frivolous lawsuits, because the loser pay rules discourages most of them and active judges weed out the remaining ones. He or she will say, we don’t let parties demand any materials they like: judges have to approve materiality of evidence taken. We won’t let irrational decisions stand: decision-makers in first instance have to explain their decisions and those decisions are fully reviewable on appeal. In our system, a win is a win: losers pay the cost of winners. My right is to one hundred cents on the Euro and not discounted to third.
Practice for foreign clients challenges us to reform our courts, not with small steps to deal with the extreme, but with fundamental changes for the everyday. As Philip K. Howard’s Common Good organization argues, America is fixable, but it needs to Start Over. Foreign clients force American lawyers to reconsider what they are doing.
Read more: James R. Maxeiner, Failures of American Civil Justice in International Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2011) http://www.amazon.com/Failures-American-International-Perspective-ebook/dp/B005IVX1I4 ; http://www.theatlantic.com/special-report/america-fixable; http://www.commongood.org/