You are a CEO reporting to an angry board. You are a sole proprietor with the future of your business at stake. Or you are an employee accused of discrimination or harassment, with your job and relationship at home on the line. Lawsuits are long, drawn out, often dramatic ordeals; they exact a toll on the participants. What follows are some ideas about how to cope with this drama and stress:
1. Find a lawyer you trust. This sounds obvious, but it can take some searching to find the right attorney. He or she must be competent in your eyes, or your stress level will increase. Equally important, your lawyer must be able to manage the stress of the suit or, again, your stress level will be worsened.
2. Trust the lawyer you find. Once you find the right lawyer, trust him or her. It is rare that your lawyer will not want and expect you to be truthful with him or her, even if the facts are bad or embarrassing. Your lawyer is in the best position to help you or your company; arm him or her with the true facts.
3. Participate in your case. I have found that individual clients who take an active role in their case experience a feeling of control. It’s not illusory. Your lawyer can only work with the tools and materials made available to him or her. You can do quite a lot, by locating and organizing documents, educating your lawyer about the nuances of your business or the circumstances of the case.
4. Manage your anger, fear or frustration. The stress of being the target of a lawsuit is not dissimilar from other traumatic or stressful events. Experts coach those going through a divorce or enduring a tragedy to use exercise or relaxation techniques, like meditation, to manage the stress. Think of a lawsuit in the same way. One caveat: bear in mind that communications with someone other than a spouse or lawyer about the details of the case can be “discovered” and potentially used against you if you say something damaging. Consult with your lawyer before speaking in any detail about your case with someone who is not your spouse.
5. Try not to direct your anger or frustration at your loved ones. This will only make it worse and potentially cause damage that can be permanent.
6. Try not to direct your anger at your lawyer. Don’t kill the messenger. In most instances, your lawyer is doing the best he or she can to protect your interests.
7. Brace for the long haul, but know it will come to an end. The cliché, “this, too, shall pass,” is true. Every lawsuit will come to an end, and there will be an opportunity for closure and new beginnings.