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Principals of Litigation from Mike Dillon, General Counsel, Sun Microsystems Inc.

Today on his corporate blog “The Legal Thing, notes from a General Counsel”, I was pleased to see a view of litigation and its true costs which so closely mirrors the foundation on which we built Sylvester, Oppenheim & Linde. While our clients have heard our (very similar) version of Mike’s litigation principles, it is refreshing to see them communicated by such a highly respected General Counsel.

While I have never met Mike, I can tell that he is a truly outstanding General Counsel, not just from this blog post “ On Litigation…(Azul Systems)” but also because he takes time to post items which could ultimately improve the public’s perception of the legal profession. And remember, Mike has nothing to sell. As a corporate officer of Sun Microsystems, his opinion is clean & clear, as is his writing.


Here are Mike’s litigation principles:

No. 1 – You only litigate when you have an important interest to protect. Litigation is costly. Incredibly costly. But it is not the expense that is the real issue, it’s the diversion of resources. Time employees spend reviewing e-mails and documents, educating lawyers and preparing for depositions is time away from the business. That’s the real cost of litigation.

No. 2 – A non-judicial resolution is almost always preferable. When you file a complaint, you are turning over resolution of an issue to a third party – be it a judge, arbitrator or jury. To a great degree you lose control of the outcome.

No. 3 – You litigate when you have a high degree of confidence that you will prevail. Bluffing is for weekend games of Texas Hold’em . When you file suit, you need to have fully evaluated all aspects of the case to ensure that the outcome will be favorable.

No. 4 – You litigate to win. This means that your employees, board and management team fully understand and support the commitment (both financial and time) required to prevail. It also means having seasoned litigation counsel who understand your business and objectives.

Illustrating that Mike lives true to his word (another attribute of an outstanding attorney), he tells the story of Sun’s conflict with Azul Systems; how he tried to resolve it without litigation and how it progressed when that failed.

All that I could add would be that business owners, managers and directors do not usually have the skill set or experience to implement the above principles without legal help. A top notch trial attorney can offer the guidance necessary to move through business legal problems. He or she will not force you into trial. Instead, he or she will help you understand the best course of action for resolving your problem and why.

You will find examples of cases which needed to go to trial and those which we recommended non trial resolution.

If you have questions about a business problem with a vendor, competitor, contract or employee, contact Sylvester Oppenheim & Linde. There is never a charge for an initial consultation with a lawyer and please notice that the clock in our logo is ticking to impress upon you the importance of time in resolving legal challenges.