Unless you’re a lawyer, chances are that you will want to avoid litigation. Although it may seem attractive to “have your day” in Court, steps should always be taken in order to avoid litigation. There are several reasons for this, the most common being, costs, uncertainty, time and emotional toll. Here are my five hot tips to ensure that you and your business stay out of the court room.
- Put it in writing
Putting this is writing may seem obvious, but believe me, I have seen matters where the lack of documentation is startling. Without a written agreement setting out what each party’s roles and responsibilities are, in the event of a dispute, it is your work over theirs. Agreements don’t have to be drawn up by lawyers (although this has obvious advantages) and can be as simple as a one page document setting out relevant dates, costs, intentions and consequences of default. Beware of the googled template, however, as these documents can often lead to trouble.
- Read the documents
While it may be well and good to receive a document that looks like it has everything covered, you will never know unless you read it. If there is anything that you don’t understand or want to remove, speak up, or suffer the consequences. People are often afraid to voice their opinion of clauses in contracts for the fear of having the deal fall over. However, signing a document wherein with terms and conditions that you don’t want to agree to can have a really negative impact and land you in Court for breach of an obligation that you never intended to perform.
If you are experiencing problems in performing your obligations, or if you think that the other party is failing to meet theirs, speak up. Often large scale disputes could have been avoided if a party had flagged the issue when it first arose. Sometimes delays or cancellations are unavoidable, but if you give the other side enough warning with a view to working together to resolve the issue, then disputes can often be avoided.
- Be objective
Understanding where the other party is coming from can often help to identify important issues. Often there are circumstances relevant to a party that the other side won’t know about. If you keep that in mind and communicate (see above) on a genuine basis, and ask questions, you have a better chance of developing and maintaining a harmonious relationship.
- Stick to the facts
At the risk of sounding like a hardened litigator, don’t let your emotions muddy the water. This is often best achieved by involving experts when necessary, such as accountants and engineers. Getting personal or upset about a situation will often cause more harm than good, and not only cause us to focus on the wrong thing, but it can also use up valuable emotional energy.