The Best Reason to Settle? Getting the Parties Their Time Back

by | November 2023

Michael Ludwig outside smiling
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”

In mediation, when encouraging settlement and compromise, we necessarily talk about risk, liability, and potential exposure.

We talk about who we think is going to win and how much, and who we think cannot prevail and why.

And we talk about money.

A lot.

But one often underappreciated yet compelling reason to settle is time.

Why is it underappreciated?

Because people tend to overestimate short-term pain (settling for an amount that is higher or lower than they expected) and underestimate long-term pain (future time spent litigating or even trying the case).

By settling, the parties make a financial decision in the present that effectively buys them time and peace of mind in the future.

For plaintiff-employees, settling saves them future time in many ways:

  • They will not have to spend time meeting with their attorneys, sitting for a deposition, participating in a trial, and more.
  • Settling allows them to move forward with their life experience without the specter of ongoing litigation hanging over them. Getting to a trial or arbitration hearing easily can take more than a year, and it could take multiple years. That is a long time to live with the weight and uncertainty that comes with litigation.
  • They can put the discomfort of what led to the lawsuit behind them. We hear time and time again about the toll it takes on a plaintiff-employee being terminated from their employment, subjected to harassment, discriminated against, retaliated against, and so on. Settling puts a bookend on that experience.

For a defendant-employer, settling also saves them future time:

  • When a lawsuit is pending, company representatives can spend countless hours coordinating with attorneys, attending depositions, and being deposed. And a prolonged trial requires a huge time commitment from multiple individuals.
  • An unresolved and ongoing litigation matter, for those involved, is like an uncompleted task that always is stuck in the back of their minds. It is a continuous drain on mental energy. They get that time and energy back by ending and resolving the litigation.
  • For an employer, litigation can be a huge distraction from running the business.

The parties’ time matters. And parties count on attorneys and mediators to educate and/or remind them about the future time costs associated with litigation.

In the words of Benjamin Frankin, “Lost time is never found again.”

For all these reasons, I advocate discussing settlement early and often, and mediating as soon as possible, including pre-litigation when you can.

Most employment law disputes can, should, and will be settled. And most often the sooner the better.

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Hi I’m Mike Ludwig

I committed myself to honing my craft as a mediator and relentlessly learning everything I could about dispute resolution. I will endeavor to share thoughts and insights about some facet of mediation, negotiation, and dispute resolution, and other information that could be helpful or interesting to you.