Before striding to court and demanding your rights, first consider other lines of attack. Other options to court proceedings are collectively known as ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ (ADR), and cover a whole range of methods such as arbitration, mediation and conciliation. ADR encourages the two sides to sit down and talk out the issue face-to-face, accompanied by their solicitors, and is often overseen by an impartial third party who encourages everyone to play fairly and to reach an amicable solution. In most cases, the parties are able to agree an out-of-court settlement, which can have a number of benefits for both sides.
The obvious advantage of ADR is that it avoids the need to go to court. Legal proceedings can be extremely expensive – especially if you lose. A losing party is often ordered to pay the legal costs of the other side, which can run to thousands of pounds. In addition, going through the courts can take an extremely long time, and (depending on how much the case is worth and how complicated the evidence is) the hearing itself may run to several days. ADR in comparison can be done at a time and place that suits you.
There are other, more subtle advantages to ADR. For example;
1) It helps keep everyone on good terms; if the other side is a company that you have worked with for years, consider all the goodwill that has been built up between you. It may be that you no longer wish to have any dealings with them, but ADR allows the business relationship to finish on a much healthier note compared to lengthy legal wrangling. Even better, you have a better chance of being able to remain amicable rather than pushing for every penny through your lawyers at court.
2) It’s a confidential meeting; the bad publicity that can come out of a court case (again, especially if you lose) can have devastating effects. As ADR is entirely private, any agreement is solely between you and the other side, and any admissions or unpleasant evidence stays firmly between you. In fact, many settlements include confidentiality agreements so neither side can make the information discussed public. This privacy also applies if you end up taking the case to court anyway; during ADR any suggested figures or admissions can be made ‘without prejudice’, which means that neither side can use these suggestions as evidence for the other’s guilt later.
3) It’s more straightforward; in court, evidence can run to pages and pages considering the tone of a conversation, or a pen mark on a document. When sitting across a table, parties are more likely to discuss things sensibly, and try to come to a commercially-minded conclusion which sits somewhere in the middle of what you both think is reasonable. You can also suggest settlement figures without admitting any blame.
It is always a good idea to first try to suggest ADR, and remember – even if the other side refuse to discuss the issue, your efforts to settle things amicably will be looked at favourably by the court, and you may end up being rewarded for your good behaviour!
The articles in this blog are for guidance only and should not be taken as legal advice. If you would like to further discuss a legal issue please call us on 01752 309090.