Checklist: what to do if you can’t sort out a dispute
"I’ll see you in court …"
How many times have you said or wanted to say that?
Have you reached that stage? If so, pause… at least long enough to read this checklist and have think.
Court proceedings are a huge step so make sure you have explored all the options.
Taking a dispute to ‘court’ is a last resort for good reason: starting court proceedings to resolve a dispute is a serious step which will have knock on effect on you and your business. For example:
- You will have to spend considerable time preparing for court, which means time away from your normal business activities.
- Those employees who are involved in the dispute will be distracted.
- It can mean additional stress for all – and that can affect family life too.
- Your cash flow might already have been hit by non-payment of invoices but you might also have less time to win new work.
- The disagreement might have a knock on effect on your local reputation and that of your business.
- Finally, you will have to pay court and possibly legal fees – up front.
Before you commence proceedings, consider the following action.
- Have you investigated the facts fully?
- Have you put your issues to the other party as rationally as possible?
- Have you been speaking to the right person? Would it help to speak to a director, the business owner or partner? If you cannot access that person, write to them – by letter rather than email and set out all the issues.
- Have you explained exactly what you want to happen?
- Have you carefully considered any counteroffer? Are you sure your rejection of such offers is reasonable? Is a compromise possible?
- Suggest a meeting. If it is providing hard to discuss the dispute because of a personality clash, consider asking a colleague to handle the discussions.
- If the issue relates to payment, is there scope for interim payments to be made?
- Avoid using the threat “I’ll see you in court”. If you do and then do not commence proceedings, your credibility will be questioned.
If a claim is being made against you, consider the following:
- Take time to investigate any allegations raised by the other party. Do they have any foundation? Is a compromise necessary?
- Speak to your employees and find out what happened.
- Mistakes happen: if the dispute was caused by a mistake by one of your employee, focus on what can be done to rectify the situation. Placing blame will not help the general morale of your staff. Consider whether training is needed to avoid a repeat of the mistake.
- If a complaint is well-founded, deal with it quickly: swift action can, in some cases, improve your reputation and standing with the other party.
- If you believe the complaint/allegations to be unfounded, take time to explain your position to the other party. Suggest a meeting. Take evidence with you to support your position.
If your relationship with the other party has broken down, it might be time to seek legal support.
We can advise on the strength of your arguments, your contractual and legal rights and your options for dispute resolution. We can help with the early settlement negotiations in the dispute as well as handle any court proceedings or alternative proceedings such as mediation.
The earlier you seek advice on a dispute, the earlier it can be resolved without the need for court proceedings. Sometimes, a solicitor’s letter or a solicitor’s involvement in the negotiation process can lead to a swift resolution.
You can contact us by telephone to discuss the dispute and your options, for a free of charge initial chat.
We will explain what the options involve and give a rough initial estimate of what they will cost.
We can also advise on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) where appropriate which might involve mediation.
Should settlement of the dispute not be possible, we can advise on the best strategy for the dispute and manage the process for you.