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Expert Witnesses in Commercial Real Estate Settlement Discussions 

December 31, 2020
Commercial Real Estate Legal Settlement

The cost and time involved with litigation can take a toll. Within commercial real estate, many litigators strive for settlements, which requires the involvement of all parties and a judge that advocates for settlement. Simply put, litigation is not usually a profit center in real estate. Thus, legal teams frequently work to conclude the matter satisfactorily before trial.  

During our recent discussion with Richard Williamson, a leading commercial and complex civil litigator in Reno, NV, he detailed the importance of settlement discussions, specifically in the commercial real estate industry. “Most disputes can and should be resolved in a settlement. It is best to do it sooner rather than later if you can so that legal expenses can be minimized, but sometimes people need to vent their frustration a little bit before they get their mind right.” 

Expert witnesses play a critical role in the settlement process and can illuminate flaws in logic or weak arguments that the legal team hadn’t previously considered. To reach a settlement, a thorough analysis of your strengths and weaknesses is required. A great expert will be able to flesh out both sides of this analysis. “It’s important for the lawyer or client to have an expert that can independently and objectively assess your case. This helps you know when a case isn’t as great as you thought, or the damages aren’t as much as you thought they’d be,” said Richard. 

These assessments are beneficial for internal discussions and situations when you want a report prepared in advance to educate the other side on their weaknesses; an extremely compelling expert can inspire settlement by demonstrating to the opposing party that their weaknesses have not been properly gauged. A dose of reality via an expert speaking at mediation can help push things to the finish line.  

Approaching mediation with an expert as a key member in discussions is not common, but particularly in commercial real estate, Richard notes that it can be quite effective. “There have been rare occasions when we have brought someone in to make a presentation in an initial group session. This can be helpful to cut through and demonstrate the preparation and how compelling your side’s arguments are. It’s certainly not something that I think you should do in every single mediation, but in the right cases, it can be very powerful and help conclude settlement negotiations.” 

While settlement discussions are often sought after by legal teams, in some instances the discussions don’t lead to a satisfactory outcome. Due to certain issues’ nature, the only way to achieve the best result for your client is to go to court. For example, in commercial real estate, title actions arise in which you need a judge to establish the record of who the owner is so that title companies and other individuals can rely on that ruling.  

Ultimately the decision of whether to pursue settlement discussions all comes back to the desired result. Situations vary, and determining the right strategy, sometimes with an expert assist, is where the best attorneys shine. In commercial real estate, the right expert may play a crucial role in achieving the results that a legal team and their clients are hoping for. As Richard demonstrated, there are creative ways to approach settlement discussions with an expert witness’s help.  

For more than 25 years, Round Table Group has helped litigators locate, evaluate, and employ the best and most qualified expert witnesses. Round Table Group is a great complement to any litigator’s quest for an expert witness and our search is always free of charge. Contact us at 202-908-4500 for more information or start your expert search now.

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