1. NO LAWSUIT IS TOO BIG FOR A SOLE PRACTITIONER
Some years ago, I worked in a large New York law firm and was assigned to a huge case involving the implosion of the boiler of a nuclear power plant: the vents had all been closed on the boiler, the air was pumped out, and it collapsed like tinfoil. The accident caused that particular power plant to be delayed years in getting onto the generating network, and the damages, primarily the cost of acquiring electricity from other states, ran to the hundreds of millions of dollars.
I worked for an experienced trial attorney who gave me occasional assignments, but I did not feel that I was a part of the lawsuit. When I asked him about this, he candidly admitted that, indeed, I was not a part of the lawsuit; he was handling it by himself. He considered it more efficient for a single lawyer to handle the case, and he was that lawyer. While he would give me a few assignments on peripheral matters, there was no chance that I would have any significant responsibility on the case: he needed to be in touch with every aspect of the case; there was nothing to delegate.
From that attorney I learned that a single lawyer can handle any size of lawsuit, even one that involved hundreds of thousands of documents. Indeed, since one lawyer has to try the suit, it is most efficient if that lawyer is the one who is familiar with every aspect of the case.
If a case is truly too big for a single attorney to handle, then it is probably too big for a judge or jury to try. If there is so much to the case that a single skilled trial attorney cannot comprehend it, how can we expect a single judge or, much less, a collection of average folk on a jury to understand it?
There is probably no better example of the untriable lawsuit than the case of United States v. IBM
. Filed in the closing days of the Johnson administration by Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the case attempted to prove that IBM had monopolized the computer industry. The case involved millions of documents, and its trial, before a single judge, went on for half a dozen years, rehashing the growth of markets in products some of which were long since obsolete. It was tried by a team of a couple dozen attorneys from the Cravath firm in New York and some hundreds of employees of IBM. Eventually the government dismissed the case. The case was clearly beyond the capacity of the judicial system to comprehend or to adjudicate rationally.
Most of us, however, do not have lawsuits that are too big, we have lawsuits that are too small. (Refer as this point to the final corollary, "Sole Practitioners Are More Likely to Tell You to Forget It and Go Home.") Typically, when a small case must be tried, or in some way resolved, the sole practitioner is able to do it, charge a reasonable fee, and get a result. The large firm won't even touch small matters -- unless you are a big client of the firm. Your case, however small, is important to the sole practitioner.