There is an old saying in the field of law, dating back a few hundred years or so to colonial-era England, that goes more or less as follows: "For every right, there is a remedy; where there is no remedy, there is no right." I don't disagree, but it's easy to forget that just because you have a remedy doesn't mean it's worth the cost to pursue it.
Over the course of my practice I've received a number of calls from potential clients who have strong claims, but the cost to file and litigate them would outweigh any benefit that they could possibly receive (and that's assuming that they win and that if they win that they can collect). These are legitimate wrongs, just with low-dollar price tags, and often the back story is one where the potential client is rightfully quite angry at the other party.
When I run into this situation, usually I first counsel the potential client to try to let go of the emotion and evaluate the situation objectively. This is often much easier said than done. Yes you were wronged. Yes you are angry, perhaps even angry in the sort of way that can only come from when some one you trusted - someone like a friend or co-worker - wronged you in a way that makes you feel like you've been betrayed. Yes I'd like to have your business...but I can't in good conscience advise you to hire me, because the cost to litigate is more than you'll ever recover.
A common initial reaction is to want to proceed anyway. Why? Because we are creatures of emotion, and there is a deep sense of pride and need for justice that being wronged seems to trigger. If it comes to that, I tell the client to take a day and think it over, and usually, once a little time has passed and the emotion has given way to objectivity, the client agrees that it's best just to move on.
I hate giving that advice, because I can feel their emotion (and it can be contagious, especially as you hear them tell their story!) and agree that they really were wronged. But in law, much like in life, we have to keep our emotions in check and make the decision that is in our best interest, even when that means that someone else is going to "get away with" having done us wrong, even when our emotions are screaming at us to do something very different. In the world of law, I think this is just good legal advice. In life, I think it's a sign of maturity. Pick up the pieces, try to forget about it, and move on.
So where there is a right, there very well may be a remedy. But consider, what's really in it for you? Is it worth the cost, or is it better to let it go and move on with life?
Ben Bauer is a Cincinnati-based attorney who writes about things in law and life that he finds interesting.