Whilst we all hope for harmonious relationships with our clients and suppliers alike, the time will come where you will be faced with a formal dispute where you will need legal support.
However, even with lawyers involved, you still have a part to play.
Here are our top tips for the preparation you can take at the start of a dispute:
1. Gather the Facts
Seek legal advice as soon as possible as this could dictate how you handle the dispute to your best advantage. It will identify your legal position and identify your strengths and weaknesses. However ensure this dialogue with your lawyer is open and honest. Be realistic and don’t hide any damaging evidence as you can be sure that your opponent will know your weaknesses.
Prepare a chronological statement dealing with all the issues and identify all key documents such as any relevant contract, terms and conditions, correspondence and e-mails.
Identify your key personnel who may be called upon to give evidence. Get them to make a written note of their interactions whilst they are still fresh in their minds. These can then be referred to if and when formal witness statements are needed.
Ensure you know your opponent. Source publicly available information regarding their company structure and liquidity. This will help you in your commercial decision-making process, considering if your opponent has funds to pay any potential legal costs or damages.
2. Goals and Outcomes
The first question I ask all my clients, is what is your desired outcome. With some clients, their opponent forms part of a larger strategic relationship. So in those scenarios an amicable resolution rather than formal court action is in everybody’s interest.
When you are armed with the facts and advice it might be possible to head off an escalating dispute with an off the record (“without prejudice”) meeting with your opponent, to clear the air and hopefully reach agreement, or at least narrow issues between you.
Consider the potential responses you may get from your opponent. This means you will be prepared for all responses, but again helps identify your strength and weakness in the matter.
3. Consider costs and benefits
It is imperative for you to consider legal costs, time, strengths and weakness of your matter early on, as this will shape your strategy.
Get clear information on timescales and costs of all various options, and ensure they fall in line with the day to day operation of the business. For example, if you are about to launch a new product /services, you need to consider your availability if you were also involved in legal proceedings alongside this, and put in place any relevant contingency plans.
If you find yourselves faced with a fall out with a client/supplier, please feel free to give Aequitas Legal a call on 0161 358 0800 for a no strings attached chat.