Answering your Dispute Resolution questions
When it comes to our Family Law or Wills & Probate departments, what we do is fairly self-explanatory, and our clients will usually understand the types of services we provide. Dispute Resolution, however, can be a different matter. There are many types of legal disputes that can require the expertise of a solicitor, whether or not the case ends up in court. Here, you can find the answers to the most commonly asked questions our specialist Dispute Resolution team receives from clients and potential clients.
What is a legal dispute?
A legal dispute is any argument or disagreement that culminates in one party taking legal action against the other. Disputes can be personal (i.e., between individuals such as siblings, spouses or neighbours) or commercial (i.e. between partners or shareholders in a company, or between a business and a contractor, for example).
Common types of personal disputes include boundary disputes (where two neighbours disagree on the ownership of land), contentious probate (disputes relating to the contents of a Will), personal injury claims and disputes between residential landlords and their tenants.
Common types of commercial disputes include breach of contract claims, partnership and shareholder disputes, commercial landlord and tenant matters, professional insolvency, fraud and defamation claims.
What does litigation mean?
Litigation is essentially the process of taking a case to court so that a judge can hand down a legally binding decision.
What are my chances of winning?
Before proceeding with a client’s case, our specialist Dispute Resolution team will carefully review their claim to gain a full understanding of the situation and establish the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position. We will weigh up the potential costs of litigation or alternative dispute resolution methods against the likely outcome and communicate honestly with our client about their chances of winning, so that they can make an informed decision about whether to proceed.
Will my dispute end up in court?
While litigation is sometimes inevitable, our solicitors will do everything in their power to resolve a dispute via alternative means. Going to court can turn an already stressful situation into a protracted and costly process, which can often become acrimonious.
If a case does have to go to court, however, we are committed to supporting our clients throughout the process and to delivering their desired outcome.
If I don’t have to go to court, how else can my dispute be settled?
There are a range of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) methods that we can try before resorting to litigation. These include:
- Mediation – both parties attend talks with a trained mediator who, while unable to offer legal advice, is on hand to facilitate productive discussions between the parties and help them towards a mutually satisfactory resolution
- Adjudication – most often used to resolve construction disputes, a professional body with relevant expertise in the sector will be nominated to make a binding decision
- Arbitration – this is the option most similar to litigation, whereby a judge called an arbitrator will hand down a judgment on the dispute. The difference is that arbitration proceedings are private and often much quicker than official court proceedings.
Can I sort out a dispute myself without involving a solicitor?
Whilst saving money by representing yourself in a dispute may be tempting, it could prove a false economy. A solicitor will have the experience and expertise required to help you through the process as smoothly as possible, understand the best route to take to achieve your desired outcome, and help you avoid the stress and expense of a court case wherever possible.
With any legal dispute, there is also likely to be a great deal of paperwork to fill out; without a lawyer on hand, you may struggle to juggle the various deadlines and protocols associated with each form. If you fail to disclose documentation and send back paperwork in a timely manner, it could draw out your case, increase your expenses and even lead to a negative outcome.
How much does it cost to instruct a solicitor?
What you pay for our services is entirely dependent on the nature and complexity of your case, and whether you opt for litigation or the alternative dispute resolution route. When a client instructs us on a dispute, we will always be up front from the very start about the fees you can expect to pay and how those payments will be taken.
Will I be able to recover my legal costs from my opponent?
If you win a dispute, you may be able to recover a certain proportion of your legal costs if your claim is worth over £10,000. If your claim is worth less than £10,000, you will generally be required to pay your own legal costs no matter what the outcome. You should note that, even if the loser is ordered to pay your legal costs, you may not receive back every penny you have paid out
What happens after I instruct a solicitor?
When you instruct one of our Dispute Resolution solicitors, they will have an initial meeting with you to discuss your case and lay out their fees and any other important information you may need – such as their qualifications and expertise to handle your case. Once you agree to proceed, we will send you a Terms of Business document to sign before getting started on your case.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
Again, this is dependent on many factors, including the complexity of your case, whether or not it results in litigation, and how responsive your opponent and their lawyer are to our correspondence. Be reassured that your solicitor will regularly update you on the progress of your case and advise you on any delays – our ultimate aim is to resolve your case as quickly as possible and keep your costs to a minimum.