What is an Independent Case Evaluator and what does he/she do?
Legal disputes, especially litigation cases are expensive. Before taking a stand or making an argument a party (or both or all the parties) to a dispute may want to get an idea what the case looks like to a neutral observer. This Case Evaluation is like a private appraisal or consulting expert. What the firm does in such a case is to do the normal Case Work Up, but in more detail for both or all sides, i.e. the case as a whole. The Case Evaluator can provide advice and comment on key facts, key legal issues, best arguments by each side, comments on how the case should (not necessarily will or would) turn-out, and a recommendation. If the Evaluation is done for just one party, it will usually be confidential unless and until it looks like the advice and comments can be fruitful later. Where the evaluation is for all the parties, it is obviously public.
A Case Evaluation is not a formal opinion letter. Formal opinions trigger practice, liability and insurance issues that make the process too onerous and high risk to be worth doing at the price that most parties are expecting and willing to pay.
An Example of What A Case Evaluator Can do: The Case is a Business Divorce
Consider this hypothetical (not too far removed from the actual facts):
Upon graduation two veterinary school classmates formed an LLC and bought a veterinary clinic. Their investment was about $500,000 for the practice and $500,000 for the building. The assumed business model was that they would work in the practice, share the expenses, and split the profits. The reality is that two-and-one-half months after beginning operations one of the vets could not take the stress and just walked out of the practice.
Client questions are:
- Does the vet who left still own part of the practice?
- Is the vet who left still entitled to receive her 50% of the profits even though she is not working to generate income?
- Can the working member terminate the ownership interest of the inactive LLC member?
- If so, is there a mandatory buy-out?
- If there is a buy-out how is the price determined?
- Is the member who stayed and is doing all the work entitled to some special form of compensation to compensate the extra work?
- Can the vet who left work for, or invest in, another veterinary practice, either down the street or across town?
- If so, can the vet who left solicit clients of the old firm?
The above questions are often litigated in “partnership disputes” and “business divorce.”
This firm or I as an Independent Case Evaluator can advise one or both (or all) of the parties as to what the law is, how judges have handled these questions, and the likely outcome of the case on the known facts. This is valuable information to know before, or early on, in the case. And, if the dispute or matter continues the parties have the benefit of the neutral advice. The Case Evaluator provides only analysis, comment and advice. There is no attempt to make the parties settle.