What do you do when things have not gone as you planned?
We have talked a lot about contracts and making sure your agreements look the way you want and how to protect yourself. The issue is: anyone can sue you for any reason. Lawsuits don’t require a lot of effort to begin. Sometimes they can quickly go away. Sometimes, there is just enough evidence to make them frustrating. What do you do when you find yourself in that situation?
First of all, if you have protected your personal liability, congratulations! Now, you have to call a lawyer. You, as a non-lawyer, can’t represent your business in court. Even if you are the only owner, an entity is considered a legal person, and only lawyers can represent other people in court.
Lawyers are good at this part. Litigation attorneys work hard to protect your rights and make sure you get the best possible outcome. Sometimes, however, when you are defending a case that should not have ever happened, you simply want it to go away. Sometimes, however, when you are defending a case that should not have ever happened, you simply want it to go away. That is where talking to a business lawyer can help you weigh what makes the most sense in your business. Litigation attorneys make money litigating. Business lawyers will work with you to help you make your business grow.
You need to know what that means in your business. Sometimes, getting rid of a case by agreeing on a dollar amount with the other side (settling) is the best option for you. When evaluating the case, you need to consider the other effects a lawsuit has on your business.
Litigation takes away focus
Lawsuits are not simply something you can turn over to a lawyer and expect them to handle. You will need to gather documents from years ago and remember what you were doing at specific times long forgotten. You will have to think in terms of the financial outlay for the lawsuit (the lawsuit, even if you use a lawyer regularly, will certainly cost more than you are accustomed to spending).
Litigation takes away time
Even if you can delegate the record gathering and you can handle the other aspects in your spare time, you will be required to attend depositions. Depositions are a time before a trial when lawyers ask questions and learn more from the witnesses. If you own the business, you will not only be deposed, but also expected to attend other key depositions in the case. This can take away your time and focus. Depositions can take hours, sometimes even days.
Litigation is emotionally draining
It is a rare lawsuit that is simply about dollars and cents. Most lawsuits involve broken relationships. There is frustration on both sides and the issues in the case will be brought up again and again. It can be emotionally draining. The emotional toll can effect your business as much as the time away from it can.
So, what are your options?
You can consider alternative dispute resolution. There are many options available today: negotiation, mediation, arbitration.
These are always good roads to consider at the outset of your case. When your litigation lawyer becomes involved, he may begin flinging motions and zealously advocating your position. This is not always the best option for your business. Sometimes, you need to begin the talks with your litigation lawyer about making the case go away. Encourage your lawyer to negotiate with the other side to come to a reasonable settlement. If your lawyer cannot make it anywhere with the other side, you may want to consider mediation. Mediation is guided negotiation. There is a neutral mediator who tries to help each side see their options.
Arbitration is effectively the same as court, so it may not be beneficial in this instance.
Sometimes, however, the other side is not reasonable. In that case, you should try to determine what the real issues are in the case and see if you can come to some resolution. It can go a long way to getting your business back on track.
Litigation is not always best for your business. It is one thing to bring a lawsuit to collect on fees you are owed. Whenever you are brought into a lawsuit as a defendant, you need to consider the big picture of how it affects your business in the long run. Getting rid of a lawsuit quickly and efficiently can go a long way for your bottom line.
Don’t settle for the sake of settling, but make sure the evaluation of your case takes into account more than simply the claims in the suit and the numbers represented on paper. Lawsuits have a much broader effect on your business. It is easy to get caught up in the “principle of the thing”. This may or may not help your business grow. Remember, you are not in the business of litigation. It is difficult to grow your business when your focus is on something not a part of the core values of your business.