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When a settlement bid is not a sign of weakness

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In almost all cases, commercial mediation rather than recourse to the courts is the preferable solution to a legal dispute. Peter Kelly and Fiona Hewitt, partners at Neves Solicitors, explain why.

DESPITE our best endeavours and sometimes through no fault of our own we can find ourselves involved in legal disputes. Should you find your business faced with a potential dispute, recourse to the courts can be regarded as an option – and sometimes it is the necessary option – but possibly not the best solution.

It is very important to understand what your business is getting involved in. It is almost always better to find a commercial solution to a dispute. Your business should consider:

  • The value of the claim, the costs involved and the implications of success or failure; 
  • What your business is trying to achieve from the litigation process;
  • The time, cost and management commitment that will be required;
  • How it will affect your ongoing commercial relationships and the reputation of the business;
  • Whether there is a commercial advantage to the dispute; 
  • What the effect will be for both parties if the dispute is made public;
  • Whether the other party will be able to pay up if you win;
  • All litigation is to some extent speculative (for example, how will the witnesses perform in the witness box?)

Peter Kelly and `Fiona Hewitt

Your business should not consider it a sign of weakness to approach the other side to explore the chances of a settlement. This can be done at any time during the litigation process, even during a trial. Commercial mediations are increasingly common and are very cost effective.

Always take legal advice first to ensure that any settlement discussions are conducted on a “without prejudice basis”. This means that anything said about the dispute during the settlement negotiations or in any written settlement offer cannot be used later at the trial. This protection only applies to statements made purely in an attempt to settle the case.

Neves Solicitors take a practical approach to problem solving, focusing on our clients’ overall objectives. Peter Kelly and Fiona Hewitt have many years’ experience in a wide range of commercial dispute matters including debt recovery, breach of contract claims, injunctions, shareholder and partnership disputes, PR/media and reputation management, commercial landlord and tenant issues and land-related disputes. Contact Peter or Fiona on 0330 0945 500 or email peter.kelly@nevesllp.co.uk or fiona.hewitt@nevesllp.co.uk

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