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When is the best tactical time to use a solicitor in a dispute?

April 19, 2017
Business Litigation

Disputes are commonplace in today’s society, but they can often be resolved between the parties themselves. There are occasions where the ‘S’ word needs to be used, to give negotiations a “push” but when is the right time to threaten this? In my opinion, this depends on the dispute and whether the other side are being reasonable or not. 

Disputes arise when two or more people do not see eye to eye and arise from almost any type of activity from breach of contract to negligence to disagreement over the contents of a will to mention a few. For them to be resolved, one or more party will need to either back down or be prepared to negotiate which usually involves a compromise by one or both. If negotiation does not seem likely, then you might need a solicitor involved to aid a settlement, commence or defend proceedings. Cost will inevitably be a concern for both parties; however, there are a number of benefits which come from instructing a solicitor. 

One of the main benefits you will get from using a solicitor is that it will allow you to understand your legal position from the outset of your case. If you are bringing a claim, or defending one, you will need to put your legal position forward at the beginning and the courts will expect you to show you have tried to settle the claim but if you can’t, why you are legally entitled to bring/defend your claim and on what grounds.  A solicitor will consider the merits of your case and if there is enough evidence to form an opinion at that time, will look at the grounds on which you can bring or defend a claim. A solicitor will also explain what options are available to you, and advise you which options you should take and when. 

Your solicitor will also help you understand what evidence you may have, or need, from the start, i.e. previous email threads or communications, documents, contracts, speak to witnesses and so on. Clients are naturally concerned about cost and so limit how much documentation they disclose to a solicitor at the outset under the misapprehension that providing less will save cost. In fact it is often better if clients provide as much as possible at the outset rather than select what they feel is most relevant, although of course pointers can help considerably. It will take a solicitor less time and therefore cost to the client, if he/she does not have to keep coming back to you if there appears to be something missing. If there is not enough evidence at the start, then it would be beneficial to commence pre-action correspondence with the other side and any witnesses to ‘fact-find’. 

Once you understand your legal position and the grounds on which you should base your claim or defence, your solicitor can adviser you on how to, or can him or herself,  engage in negotiations with the other side, and tactically consider when the right time to make an offer would be, and what offers to make. Sometimes, it only takes a letter from a solicitor to show the other side you are serious about your case, and that may aid a settlement itself. If the dispute does proceed to court, the court will expect the parties to have tried to negotiate a settlement so this may give you greater protection when it comes to costs. 

Lastly, but by no means least, by instructing a solicitor you will potentially save yourself a considerable amount of time and stress. If the other side is not prepared to back down, and you want to push to trial, there are strict procedural rules and time limits which must be followed. It takes a lot of time to bring a case to trial; some larger cases can go on for years before the court will make a decision. A good solicitor can take on your case and deal with the weight of preparation and consideration of the issues, which will then free-up your time so you can carry on with your own day-to-day business and lifestyle. 

In summary, taking advice from a solicitor at the beginning, does not mean you need to threaten the ‘S’ word at that time. It may be the right action for your dispute to take advice at the start to see where you stand so you can enter negotiations yourself. You can always instruct a solicitor later if negotiations are unsuccessful.  Whatever your position, our specialist team can advise you of the best tactical, cost effective way to move forward.    

If you have a dispute and would like initial advice, then you can contact us.

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