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Wise Men Look for Ways to Settle Their Disputes

The Christmas season is a time when many choose to focus on charity, service, and gift giving.  The Christmas spirit can even be strong enough to do away with grudges and bring about forgiveness. It is in that spirit that I wish to bring up a few ideas, not original with me, about dealing with legal wrongs and lawsuits.

Abraham Lincoln famously counseled attorneys to “discourage litigation.”[1] He continued: “Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser – in fees, expenses, and waste of time.”[2]

Over thirty years ago, Warren E. Burger lamented the growing trend in litigation: “For some disputes, trials will be the only means, but for many, trials by the adversary contest must in time go the way of the ancient trial by battle and blood. Our system is too costly, too painful, too destructive, too inefficient for a truly civilized people.”[3]

At about the same time, Roger Fisher opined: “Like warfare, litigation should be avoided.  Let’s candidly admit that from the client’s point of view virtually every litigated case is a mistake. Unless one client or both had made a mistake, the case could have been settled and both would have been better off.”[4]

Gordon B. Hinckley has also spoken on this theme.  He said:

We live in an environment where there is much of litigation and conflict, of suing and countersuing. Even here the powers of healing may be invoked. As a young man I worked with Elder Stephen L. Richards, then of the Council of the Twelve. When he came into the First Presidency of the Church, he asked me to assist him with a very delicate and sensitive matter. It was fraught with most grave and serious consequences. After listening to him discuss it, I said, ‘President Richards, you don’t want me; you want a lawyer.’ He said, ‘I am a lawyer. I don’t want to litigate this. I want to compose it.’
We directed our efforts to that end, and wonderful results followed. Money was saved, much of it. Embarrassment was avoided. The work was moved forward without fanfare or headlines. Wounds were closed. The healing powers of the Master, the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, were invoked in a delicate and difficult situation to compose what otherwise could have become a catastrophe.[5]

I believe that we can learn much from considering these words.  And while it is true that, after everything, some disputes can really only be properly resolved through the courts, for many disputes a private settlement is the better way.  May God bless us to seek it and to find it whenever we can.



[1] http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/12/opinion/l-persuade-your-neighbors-to-compromise-218791.html (last visited Dec. 21, 2016 at 11:55 pm).

[2] Id.

[3] Warren E. Burger, “The State of Justice,” American Bar Association Journal 70 (April 1984):66.

[4] Roger Fisher, “What About Negotiation as a Specialty?” American Bar Association Journal 69 (September 1983): 122 1.

[5] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Healing Power of Christ,” Ensign 18 (November 1988): 54, 59.

© 2016 Kevin R. Worthy. All rights reserved.

Comments (1)

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