Whatever business you are involved in, legal disputes are a constant risk. Contractual relationships like any other relationship, can hit problems and misunderstandings that need to be resolved, to get things back on track. While some disputes may have to be brought before a court, it’s worth knowing your out of court settlement options first.

Whether a customer has defaulted on their payment obligations or there is a disagreement with the shareholders in your company, obtaining advice from specialist litigation solicitors may sometimes be essential. When a dispute arises, it can be tempting to head straight to court, retreat into entrenched positions and argue. However, this can cause needless stress.

It can also be self-defeating if you end up destroying a good relationship, which would otherwise have brought benefits over the long term.

Alternative dispute resolution provides a different way of settling disputes in a fair and amicable way.

Here are our top 5 alternative dispute resolution tips, for sorting out your differences without involving a court:

Before you do anything else, take a step back

If a conflict has arisen and there’s a lot at stake, it can be easy to get into a zero-sum-game mindset and feel like you have to prove your point no matter what. Before you act, try to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Are you arguing about fundamental principles? Or is this a minor bump in the road in an otherwise highly beneficial relationship? What is the most important thing for you here? To be right or to solve the problem pragmatically?

Disputes are hard to sort without both parties making some sort of concession. Think about what the other party wants or needs to keep them happy. If giving them what they want is a reasonable price to pay for settling the matter and continuing a fruitful cooperation, an out of court settlement might be the way forward.

Be clear about the cause of the disagreement

Conflicts can escalate so quickly that their true cause can become obscured. Once you feel calm and can be more objective about the situation, think honestly and critically about what lead to your current disagreement. Stripping the matter down to the facts will make finding a solution quicker and easier.

Since fact finding will be based on evidence, you should be sure to keep a good set of records. Keep invoices, correspondence, a record of what calls were made and notes of what was said. This may prove a great help down the line if different recollections lie at the source of the argument.

Don’t underestimate the power of common sense and fairness

Dispute resolution does not have to involve great discussions between litigation solicitors, about the finer points of the law. Often, the resolution of a conflict is a matter of common sense and reaching an understanding, about what is fair in the specific case. Even in times of conflict, most people will remain reasonable and flexible.

Resolving a dispute out of court is more likely to preserve that attitude and stop parties becoming defensive and closing themselves off to compromise.

In such cases, litigation solicitors aren’t there to be adversarial. Their role is that of a skilled facilitator, providing assistance in the negotiation of a solution and the settlement of the issue.

Go into discussions with a positive attitude

As mentioned above, most people do remain reasonable even in the middle of a dispute and it is worth keeping this in mind, when entering discussions on how to resolve the issue. Assuming that the other party is acting in good faith and is as interested in an amicable solution as you, will help to keep communications open and friendly. Solutions are much easier to find in that kind of atmosphere.

On the other hand, entering into discussions seeing the other party as an opponent who you must get the upper hand over, is just going to delay the resolution process. Be optimistic!

Consult a litigation solicitor

If you have not been able to solve the dispute yourself, it is advisable to hire an experienced litigation solicitor to provide assistance. They can negotiate with the other party on your behalf, recommend a mediator to broker a deal with them or advise you to proceed to arbitration – or to court as a last resort.

Our litigation experts at Dickinson Parker Hill have years of experience in settling disputes for our clients out of court, in a way which is fair and pragmatic. We help you to assess your legal situation and how best to approach a resolution.

Settling disputes out of court can save time, money and relationships. So, if you have a conflict on your hands and you don’t know how to proceed, give us a call on 01695 574201 and we can help you move forward.

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