If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a dispute, don’t despair. If you choose an experienced lawyer from the outset, Matthew Brandis, dispute resolution partner, says that they should make you aware of the whole process, help you to avoid any pitfalls and advise on the steps you can take to secure the best possible outcome.
Firstly, it is vital to have an initial call with an experienced dispute resolution lawyer to help identify whether you are going down the wrong path with your dispute, if it should be pursued at all or whether, it would be beneficial to involve a lawyer in the process. If they have the right expertise and experience, they should advise on the best course to take if you decide to continue with your case.
A very large proportion of cases settle well before anyone reaches the doors of a court. This is primarily because there is no such thing as a dead-cert case, for either party, and therefore settlement is usually the best solution. How that settlement concludes is down to a combination of factors.
- Your lawyer should write a strong opening letter. This could be a letter before action or a response to such a letter, setting out your side of things. Including evidence is key, so ensure that you pass all the relevant information and documents to your lawyer (even the ones you don’t think will help). Only then a lawyer will know what they are working with and also avoid any last-minute surprises, which helps no-one.
- If the claim is above £10,000, your lawyer can also write a “Part 36” letter. The rules around such letters are complicated but in summary they are settlement letters sent to the other party. The key point to note is that if a Part 36 offer is not accepted, and the party who made the offer “beats” (i.e. gets more at court) than they offered to accept in the letter, then the other party risks having to pay more in costs, more in interest and more in damages at the end of the case. A well-positioned Part 36 settlement offer can therefore bring a case to an end at an early stage because the other party does not want to risk such adverse consequences arising.
- During the whole process it is important that you do not post anything on social media or contact the other party or their friends or associates about the dispute, as it may undermine the strength of your case.
- It is worth considering mediation as soon as both parties have laid their cards on the table as it can be a powerful way to resolve disputes. Why? Firstly, it speeds up the whole settlement process because everyone is in the same (virtual or real) building or room, which usually encourages a swifter outcome (and therefore saves money and reduces stress). Secondly, unless it is a commercial dispute (though even then, this comes into play sometimes) there is often a large measure of bad blood between the parties, and it can be cathartic for each party to explain how they have been emotionally hurt by the other. Once such emotions have been explained, it is easier for both parties to look at a dispute more rationally. B P Collins has frequently seen this in action and it really does help enable matters to be settled.
If you’re involved in a dispute, B P Collins provides free initial advice by telephone to help identify the best path to take. It also runs www.settlemydispute.co.uk, which only handles mediation, and is operated by Matthew Brandis and Craig Williams, both of whom are B P Collins’ dispute resolution partners, trained as mediators by CEDR. Please contact Matthew Brandis for more information.