What do I need to know about contracts in a contractual dispute?
Contracts are in operation at all levels. They exist between the biggest global enterprises and the smallest of high street businesses. They vary greatly in their level of sophistication and in some instances may not even be in writing. Therefore, the first thing to know about any contractual dispute is what contractual documents are in place between your business and the other party and what they say. The difficulty in finding out this information can vary greatly but it is vitally important as contracts are the foundation of every relationship.
What are my alternatives to going to Court in a contract dispute?
Embarking on legal proceedings is an expensive avenue to go down. Litigation does have a wide variety of benefits but there are a number of types of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that can be considered before issuing legal proceedings.
ADR, such as mediation, can alleviate the costs that Court action would entail. A mediation session allows parties to discuss the issues that exist openly under the guidance of an experienced mediator who seeks to facilitate a settlement. Participation in a mediation does not guarantee the need to avoid Court proceedings but is very beneficial in procuring a resolution to a dispute.
Even where a settlement is not achieved at a mediation itself the settlement discussion has already been commenced and usually has reached an advanced phase. This means that many mediations that are unsuccessful on the day, result in a settlement being reached shortly afterwards. Mediation can also be particularly beneficial in preserving commercial relationships between parties.
What can I do now to protect against a future contract dispute?
One of the best practices to employ now for when a dispute does occur is to keep good records. It is important not to throw away correspondence and to make a note of any telephone calls between yourself and your contracting parties.
These documents are often used to evidence the contractual relationship which exists between parties and therefore, a comprehensive record of those communications is vital. Also, it is good practice to regularly review any contracts to which you are a party. This allows you to ensure that the contract still represents the relationship between the parties as commercial relationships do often change or develop over time.
In the event a contract no longer reflects the relationship between the parties a dialogue can often be opened between contracting parties to repair the relationship. By ensuring contracts are up to date you can assist in avoiding future disputes.
When should I seek legal advice?
Obtaining legal advice at an early stage of a contractual dispute is a beneficial step. A solicitor will be able to review the contract in place and provide advice as to the strength of your legal position. They will also be able to discuss potential solutions which are appropriate for your business and its specific needs. Where legal advice is not obtained at an early stage disputes can become protracted causing parties to invest a lot of time in resolving a dispute with limited success.