Threatening You Will Hire An Attorney? There are Better Ways to Resolve Your Dispute

Are you in the middle of a dispute with a large organization, such as an agency of the U.S. government, or a prime contractor?  Is that party not being reasonable in the dispute, and causing you frustration?  If so, you may feel tempted to threaten you will get an attorney if your dispute is not resolved how you want.

Please know that making this threat– that you may get an attorney, rather than actually having one already representing you– is usually a bad idea.  Rarely does a large entity react to the threat the way you would want them to (i.e. rarely do they back down, give you what you want, etc.).   The large entity may react to an attorney threat in ways that make the situation worse for you.

Here are common negative reactions a large organization could make in response to an attorney threat:

— They don’t take the threat seriously (i.e. they think if you were serious about getting an attorney, you would have already done it, not just say you would);

— They could stop communicating with you;

— They could manipulate information and documents (e.g. they could to try to hide their wrongdoing or take action to serve and protect their interests, and they could tell representatives not to communicate with you about what has happened, etc.); or

— They could take retaliatory actions against you.

As you can see, making threats of hiring an attorney without taking action may end up hurting your ability to resolve your dispute.  Saying nothing would have been better than making the threat: at least saying nothing would have kept your situation the same, rather than the threat making it worse.

An even better option than threatening to get an attorney, though, is to actually hire an attorney (or at least consult with one).  When you consult with an attorney, you have the opportunity to tell the attorney about your situation and get professional advice. The attorney can advise you about what legal rights and leverage you actually may have in negotiations or potential litigation with the other party.  The attorney can recommend whether you should proceed with a legal claim. Before you try to talk with the opposing organization, the attorney also can give you guidance on what to say, what not to say, and how to say it

If you hire the attorney, the attorney could also deal directly with the entity with whom you have a dispute. If the attorney thinks telling the opposing organization that you are considering legal action is the right step, then the attorney can communicate directly with the organization on your behalf.

When the author-attorneys of this blog have an initial consultation with potential clients who have complaints, we advise them of legal rights and options. The advice may include the following, depending on the situation: (1) no good legal options exist, so no threat (of getting an attorney, taking legal action etc.) should be made to the opponent and no legal action should be taken; (2) good legal options exist and should be pursued in a recommended manner (e.g. via certain negotiations through an attorney or directly with the opponent, via a legal complaint in a particular forum, etc.).  If you have strong legal rights– which you may not already realize– those rights could be harmed if you threaten the opposing organization that you plan to get an attorney.

If the matter is important to you, rather than make a threat, you should discuss it with an attorney so you can better understand your legal rights and options.

If you have a dispute with the U.S. Government or one of its prime contractors and want to learn more about your rights and options, please contact the blog-author attorney Vonda K. Vandaveer at or +1-202-340-1215. There is no fee for initial communication about your matter.

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