As a California business owner, whether you run a large business or a small “mom-and-pop” establishment, disputes are inevitable. Disputes can happen with vendors, with customers, with competitors, with governmental agencies and, frequently, internally amongst business partners. They are a reality in any relationship, but when it comes to a business dispute, it’s important to handle them right and address any issues directly.
The best outcome in any dispute is being able to resolve the matter without involving a legal process. However, that isn’t always possible.
Sometimes a business dispute can’t be resolved easily and becomes a legal matter. This isn’t automatically a terrible result on its own. Business litigation can be an effective way to put an end to an outstanding problem, but only if you maintain a healthy view on your goals and expectations. Otherwise it can be messy, expensive, time-consuming and at times disastrous.
To help make sure that doesn’t happen, it’s important to have a trusting and positive relationship with a fine business litigation attorney.
How to protect yourself from litigation
Be careful to document communications you have. Keep good records that you can easily access, such as a “notes” section of contracts or electronic records that you can update regarding customers/clients and vendors. Be fair with the other party, and try to avoid drawing lines in the sand. Review and update contracts and business forms frequently to make sure they capture the current state of your business interactions.
With business partners, try to see the point of view from every chair of the conference table – consider what each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, insecurities and motivations are. Understand it from their perspective, and you might find that a dispute you thought was unfair to you can be reasonably seen from another side.
What to do if litigation seems certain
Having said all of this, when a dispute appears to be headed toward litigation, you must do all of these things:
- Hire a lawyer you trust to be available and get things done; don’t try to represent yourself.
- Document, document, document. Having good, written documentation will help prove your case. Bring that documentation with you when you meet with your attorney.
- Avoid using text messages to communicate issues that may end up in litigation.
- Consider who would be witnesses for you in the litigation and discuss that with your lawyer.
- Do not get emotional or desperate – desperate people do desperate things.
- Do not make concessions or take extreme (or really any) positions without discussing them with your attorney.
- Be forthright and truthful with your attorney, even if it means admitting things that don’t paint you in the best light.
What if I’m already facing litigation?
If you are in litigation already, consider that it is a process that is more like a marathon than a sprint. Every case is different, particularly in business litigation. Every case has a strategy, like a war, and there are skirmishes that are not as important as others. As a former Army Officer, I can tell you that it is a constant balancing act to focus on the war, while also having a detailed approach to each part of that war on a day-to-day basis.
In finding an attorney to assist you, be careful of an attorney who over-promises terrific results, who overuses legal jargon or who spends too much time bragging about his/her résumé. Try to find an attorney who explains your options in plain language, who is strategic and who listens to you before just talking about what he or she will do for you. Also, look for a lawyer with experience both in resolving cases through mediation and in trying cases before a judge or jury, in the event it is necessary to do so.
The Coopersmith Law Firm in California has that experience and the skill set to help you through this difficult time in your business. Our legal team will give you cost-effective litigation advice, and we offer the quality of a large firm with the care and attention a boutique business litigation firm can provide. Let us guide you through rough waters and toward a positive result.
Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.