It is a sad fact that disagreements can arise in the best-run businesses and if they cannot be settled amicably they can result in costly business litigation.
It is also a sad fact that legal fees are often far greater than the damages awarded and. Worse, if you lose and have to pay those of the other side.
While most litigation involves a financial settlement, the underlying dispute can be for a myriad of reasons. Many disputes relate to the non-payment for goods or services that one party believes were provided while the other believes were defective or the terms were not observed. Others may be down to parties falling out or wanting to terminate contracts. Whatever the cause taking issues to court can be extremely expensive if the facts are in dispute.
Often when each side feels that it has much to lose emotions will run high and judgement may be less than impartial.
Very often, when the parties involved realise the length of time that may be involved and the escalation of costs starts to bite they end up agreeing to settle out of court. But before coming to terms with this reality they may have spent considerable sums that might not have been necessary.
So, it makes sense before embarking on costly business litigation for all parties involved to establish clearly and accurately the facts of the dispute and the realistic prospects for a satisfactory outcome.
Simply assembling all the relevant paperwork as evidence before appointing lawyers will save a lot of money and may even avoid an expensive mistake as it will highlight your ability to substantiate claims.
This may involve examining the terms of a contract to establish the nature of a breach such as non-payment for goods and services, not meeting deadlines, the definition of poor service or substituting a material with one of lesser quality.
It may mean establishing precisely what had been agreed by the partners or shareholders including whether there were any terms or conditions that should be referred to should either party wish to leave.
Partnership and shareholder disputes, like employee termination, may be cited as being down to a breach of duties or obligations or poor performance but all too often these are contrived reasons that are used to justify another reason such as a clash of personalities.
Service and contract disputes are rarely black and white matters and can result in lengthy court hearings, as also can breaches of confidentiality or copyright.
While you might think you are the best person to consider the merits of any litigation it makes sense to engage someone impartial to carry out this task as they will help you remove emotion and pride from any decision.
It is difficult to decide who to use since engaging the right person can also remove a procedural bias. There are likely to be a number of different ways of resolving the dispute where for example, some lawyers like the adversarial nature of the court room, others might promote mediation or arbitration as a form of dispute resolution.
Before engaging a lawyer, a trusted adviser may be useful. While they may not have the same insight as a barrister who might advise on the likely outcome in court, they can be objective and hopefully wise. I have often simply picked up the phone to the other party and met them to resolve matters for clients long before they escalate. It is a tragedy that emotion and pride tend to be the real barriers to resolving disputes.
Whoever you get to advise you, assembling your evidence and getting an early independent perspective can help avoid fruitless litigation or at least identify the most appropriate procedure for resolving matters.