Disputes can be very damaging and disruptive to a business. That’s why dealing with them promptly is essential. Our business dispute solicitors handle disagreements across a wide range of sectors and have a proven track record of resolving them successfully.
We always aim to deal with disputes out of court, avoiding litigation wherever possible. This is generally a faster and more cost-effective way of dealing with matters and can stop a relationship from degenerating further.
Early intervention by our experienced dispute solicitors can also prevent a problem from escalating. David Patterson, a hugely experienced solicitor, leads our dispute resolution team. He is a member of the Commercial Litigation Association (CLA), the UK’s only national group dedicated to advancing the interests of everyone involved in commercial litigation, mediation and dispute resolution.
Having business dispute solicitors with this expertise is crucial if you want to find a constructive answer to your difficulties and avoid lengthy court hearings. We have the expertise to work with you to find creative solutions that will allow you to settle your disagreement and return your focus to your business.
We deal with a full range of business disputes, from internal disagreements between directors, shareholders and partners to external matters involving contracts with third parties and professional negligence. We also deal with all types of property disputes.
Our business dispute solicitors’ services include:
· Business partnership disputes and partnership dissolution
· Commercial contract disputes
· Debt recovery
· Disputes with customers
· Environmental law prosecutions
· Landlord and tenant disputes
Resolving your business dispute
Legal disputes are a significant problem for businesses. They take focus away from your organisation and can be expensive and time-consuming. If not handled promptly, they can also be damaging to your reputation.
A Legal Services Board survey in February 2018 questioned 10,579 businesses, finding that 31% had a legal problem in the previous year. Almost half of those experiencing difficulties (47%) reported that it had resulted in a financial loss.
The sooner you tackle a business dispute, the easier it generally is to manage. Over time, those involved can become fixed in their position and it will be harder to find a solution. As individuals lose time and money to a dispute, they are often less inclined to compromise.
Involving business dispute solicitors as soon as an issue arises can help focus everyone on finding a solution. It will be easier to see the bigger picture at this stage and to understand that dragging out a dispute could be catastrophic.
How to handle a business dispute
Our team has a sound commercial understanding and can often suggest innovative ways of resolving business disputes. We will take the time to understand your organisation and point of view and work with you to establish the key issues to resolve.
We can suggest ways of moving forward and negotiate on your behalf with the other side or their solicitor. We are strong negotiators and can frequently agree on a practical solution that suits everyone and allows the dispute to end.
Commercial alternative dispute resolution
If it is not possible to settle a business dispute by way of negotiation, the next step is generally to explore alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
ADR is intended to help those involved in a dispute find an acceptable solution out of court. We can suggest the best type of mediation for your situation, which could be:
· Expert determination
· Early neutral evaluation
Mediation involves the appointment by the parties of a neutral mediator. This will be someone with commercial expertise who also has training and experience in complex dispute resolution.
This type of ADR is often successful and even if it does not result in a complete solution, mediation can help to identify the key problems and reduce the points of contention.
The parties will jointly appoint the mediator who will work with everyone involved to explore potential solutions, but they will not pass judgment on the issues. They can help you find compromises that may be acceptable and can assist in keeping the dispute resolution process productive and civil.
A mediator will not impose a binding decision on you. Any outcome will be one that all parties agree upon.
Our firm commitment to mediation is shown by the fact that the head of the dispute resolution team, David Patterson, has been an ADR Group Accredited Workplace Mediator since 1997.
Delays in the civil justice system
Given how expensive and disruptive civil litigation can be, the current huge level of backlogs in the County Court mean that the system is going even slower than usual.
As at December 5th, 2023, the most recent Civil Justice Statistics Quarterly Average times were bad enough for small claims – which averaged 52.3 weeks – and worse still for multi/fast track claims going to trial after a remarkable 78.2 weeks.
These backlogs provide even better reasons than previously for getting the right legal advice and considering mediation, arbitration or an alternative to trial.
Resolving your business dispute with “expert determination”
If a dispute involves one or two single issues that are technical in nature, expert determination can be a good choice.
It involves appointing an expert in the relevant field, such as surveying or company or share valuation.
The expert will only deal with the point in question and will not need to see substantial amounts of evidence.
The parties will agree to be bound by the decision made by the expert.
This type of ADR is sometimes used in conjunction with mediation to narrow down the issues in contention.
Our dispute resolution team have plenty of experience in choosing the right expert for your case.
Arbitration may also be worth considering. It’s essentially similar to taking the matter to trial at court. But instead, it’s a private arrangement and is usually can if currently quicker to arrange. There will be a hearing in front of an arbitrator or arbitration panel. The parties generally agree to be legally bound by the decision reached.
The parties will work together to choose an arbitrator and enter into an arbitration agreement, setting out the rules for the arbitration process.
The agreement can allow the arbitrator to provide a range of remedies, including:
· Payment of the other side’s legal costs
· An order requiring one party to do something or stop doing something
· An order amending or ending a contract
· A declaration on a contested point
The property and construction industries commonly use specialist adjudication to resolve problems. It is also appropriate where the disputed issue is relatively straightforward, such as a breach of contract or payment terms.
One of the main advantages of adjudication is that it is generally a rapid way to deal with a dispute, usually taking less than 28 days. It can also help the parties improve their relationship to the point where they can work productively together in the future.
Contracts often stipulate the use of arbitration if certain disputes arise. Even if they do not, parties involved in a disagreement can use adjudication to resolve matters.
Early neutral evaluation
Early neutral evaluation can help those involved in a dispute gain a fuller understanding of their position from the start. It can help narrow down the issues in contention and reduce the time taken to reach a resolution.
It is particularly useful in helping parties understand the strengths and weaknesses of their position and whether to go ahead with their case.
It is sometimes called a ‘sense check’ and can help avoid lengthy disagreements over minor points.
A legal professional such as a barrister will evaluate the case. Their comments will not be binding on the parties but should help everyone decide how to proceed. In particular, it can encourage an out of court settlement.
Why use alternative dispute resolution in your business dispute?
As well as being faster and cheaper than litigation, the courts expect that parties involved in a dispute will make meaningful efforts to resolve matters between themselves. The pre-action protocols that each side needs to go through before a court hearing also specifically encourage attempts to deal with matters out of court.
The Head of Civil Justice, Sir Geoffrey Vos, believes that ADR should be at the heart of all parts of civil justice and that mediation should be part and parcel of resolving disputes, including those between businesses and consumers.
Failure to try and resolve a dispute out of court could be penalised when a judge looks at the issue of awarding costs. Even if someone wins their case, if they have refused to attempt out of court dispute resolution, they could end up paying not only their own costs, but those of the other side as well.
The courts have held that no defence, however strong, justifies failure to engage in any kind of alternative dispute resolution.
Engaging meaningfully with ADR is the best option for a business involved in a dispute. A compromise is frequently preferable to lengthy legal proceedings.
Litigation for business disputes
If ADR has not been successful, then litigation is a last resort.
While our business dispute solicitors will make every effort on your behalf to find an out of court solution, they are also experienced and robust litigators.
In bringing court proceedings, we will give you an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the potential outcome you could achieve.
Our comprehensive commercial experience means we can put together the strongest possible case. We will guide you through the process, including the pre-action protocol, ensuring you know what will happen next.
You will be represented in court by an expert business dispute advocate.
In our experience, it is always advisable for any business facing commercial dispute to seek legal help early on. It is very easy for a disagreement or misunderstanding to escalate. As those involved spend more time, money and energy in dealing with a dispute or defending a position, it becomes harder to resolve amicably.
Without intervention, even relatively minor issues can rapidly build into complex and protracted cases. Those that result in litigation can be exceptionally expensive as well as damaging. Once a case reaches court, the issues will be in the public domain, which can harm a brand.