David took down Goliath with five smooth stones, but he had given careful thought to his strategy before he entered the battle. See 1 Samuel 17:40. Careful planning, perspective, and realistic expectations are essential to successfully resolving your dispute with a more powerful government or corporate adversary.
- Know your goals. Understanding your goals is the first step toward successful resolution of your problem. The goal is important; the means are incidental. Sometimes a lawsuit is the answer, but sometimes the same goals can be achieved through negotiation or even a change of jobs. You should not shrink from asserting your rights, but you should not let a lawsuit become an end rather than a means. David had a clear goal in mind, but he was able to do more with a sling than a full suit of armor.
- Understand the process. By and large, the civil justice system is about getting compensation for your injuries. The criminal justice system is designed to punish wrongdoers; the civil justice system mostly is not. (Unlike David, you do not get to present your adversary's head to the king.) You should focus on what you need to make you whole, and then assess how much of what you need you can get through the system. Be prepared for the fact that your employer may fight back vigorously, and that victory does not come without daring and persistence.
- Pick your lawyer carefully. A lawsuit, like an expensive car, is a big investment. You need to have someone you trust guide you through it. Make the effort to look around and find someone in whom you have confidence, and then work closely and cooperatively with your lawyer to achieve your goals. You retain decision-making authority over the objectives of your case, but if you cannot rely on your lawyer's advice, you chose the wrong lawyer. David was an unlikely candidate to slay the Philistine's chief warrior, but he proved to be the right man for the job.
- Plan your budget. Lawsuits can be very expensive. When you set out on a long trip, you make sure you have a full tank of gas. Likewise, give some thought beforehand to how you are going to pay for your lawsuit, so that you don't run out of money halfway through. At the same time, pay attention to what is needed to get the job done. Sometimes you just need a shepherd boy, not an army. But sometimes you need the army.
- Take an active role in your case. The best attorney-client relationships are partnerships; you should take advantage of your attorney's expertise and provide him with as much support as possible without sacrificing your independent judgment. Your lawyer is one person with many demands on his time. Moreover, his time does not come cheap. You can do yourself and your lawyer a favor by making sure that you provide your lawyer with the evidence in your possession or within your knowledge in a clear and organized fashion. (Be careful not to take confidential, proprietary, or trade secret information from your employer; your attorney can obtain this information through discovery in the legal process in ways that do not jeopardize you or your case ) Above all, make sure you communicate with your attorney: he needs to hear what is on your mind. He is in a better position than you to determine what information is significant and what is not, so try not to leave anything out. Your attorney can only represent you effectively if he knows the whole story. In the end, David triumphed by taking the initiative; you can, too.