The way in which you manage a dispute in its early stages can set you up for success or failure.
Below are five things everyone should keep in mind if their legal skies are clouding over.
1. Understand your contract
This allows you to implement it properly to comply with all of the obligations it imposes. Countless disputes could be avoided if parties did this from day one.
When a dispute arises, review the contract carefully before making any threats or claims.
In the absence of a written agreement, make sure you understand what has been agreed informally (and by whom).
Disputes often arise from a failure to communicate. If you anticipate having difficulties honouring your obligations, often the best approach is to notify the other party in advance.
But – don’t say too much. Avoid making comments which could later be construed as admissions.
3. It’s all about the documents…
Remember that relevant documents exchanged between the parties must be disclosed to the court if a legal proceeding eventuates. Keep these documents in a central place so that they can easily be located when needed.
Don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t put in a formal letter. Conversely, don’t destroy any documents or records.
Makes file notes of meetings, conversations and negotiations. If necessary, send a follow-up email summarising what was discussed and agreed.
4. Brief lawyers early
A good lawyer can assist you in corresponding with the other party and can advise about your prospects of success.
A carefully considered advice on merits can inform your approach when negotiating.
5. Consider a pre-litigation mediation
Litigation is time-consuming and expensive. It is often beneficial to attempt to resolve a dispute early.
Your contract may provide guidance as to the dispute resolution process which should be followed.
Mediation is one option. Others include arbitration, neutral evaluation and/or expert determination.
If you agree to mediate, be clear about what will and won’t be discussed or negotiated.
David Kelly is the founder of KHQ Approved, a fixed fee commercial contract review service. Peace of mind from an experienced team for a reasonable price.