If you run a business for any length of time, it’s likely you will get involved with disagreements and disputes with your associates, whether they be customers, employees, suppliers or competitors. Some legal issues or disputes are more serious that others, but all legal issues and disputes need to be dealt with efficiently and quickly in order to prevent them from escalating.
1. Have a plan in place to deal with a legal issue or dispute
A key to ensuring that legal issues and disputes are dealt with efficiently is ensuring that you have an effective dispute resolution system set up. The result of having such a system in place is that it can spring into action when needed, thus saving you from the need to rush around on the hoof.
2. Review the Contract (if relevant)
If your legal issue or dispute relates to a particular contract, obviously one of your first steps should be to review the contract in question. The important clauses to look for are (i) the clause that relates to the particular dispute, (ii) and dispute resolution clause, which sets out the procedures should any dispute arise, (iii) the termination clause, which sets out how the parties to a legal agreement can end their contractual relationship.
3. Speak to a Lawyer
There is really no getting around the fact that you will need to speak with a lawyer if you’re involved in a legal issue or dispute, even if it is minor. A lawyer will be able to guide you in your approach, and this guidance is best sought at the beginning of the dispute when your strategy can still be mapped and changed easily. You definitely don’t want to end up in a situation where you’ve started legal action and only then decide to consult with a lawyer – and find out that the lawyer’s advice is to take a different course!
4. Attempt to reconcile
It’s sensible to attempt to reconcile with the other party to your legal issue or dispute if at all possible. Taking a legal issue or dispute into the legal arena is usually very time consuming and can be expensive. You should carefully consider, along with your legal adviser, whether the severity of the dispute warrants legal action.
5. Arbitration (if possible)
Arbitration, or alternative dispute resolution, is in many ways similar to court proceedings, but much more flexible and sometimes less costly. Generally the parties to a legal issue or dispute can choose an arbitrator and agree on the procedures and processes to be followed. This ensures that the dispute can be resolved in a way which is tailored to the needs of the parties and the industry standards involved. In many more complex contracts the parties will agree that any legal issues or disputes will be resolved through arbitration rather than legal action. You can, however, agree to binding arbitration when a dispute arises. Whether ADR is a good option or not will depend on the individual circumstances of your legal issue or dispute, which is why you should work with a lawyer who can advise you on these matters.
If you are unable to resolve your legal issue or dispute through communication, discussion, compromise and possibly ADR, then you may need to move to litigation. Obviously this means getting the courts involve, and you will generally be required to follow a “pre-action protocol”, which can help the parties resolve the legal action or dispute before the matter gets to court.
Litigation is generally expensive and although the losing party normally pays the costs of the successful party, you can’t always recover these costs. For all these reasons, litigation really should be a last resort.
The key to resolving a legal issue dispute as effectively and cheaply as possible is to work with the right legal professional at the right time. LegalVision works with a network of both online solicitors and barristers who provide low fees, and fixed costs where possible. Get in touch now for a no obligations discussion!