There Are No Winners When There is a Dispute... But You May Not Have a Choice


3 min read

If you have a dispute with someone, how do you resolve it? Can you settle it on your own? There's probably no agreement on the facts or who's at fault.

Maybe you just let it go. But then are you letting someone walk all over you? It's hard to get the right perspective. What do you do? Know that:

  1. There is a place and procedure for your dispute

  2. There is a professional to make your argument for you

  3. There are people who will listen to both sides and decide who wins

The place you're going is to court, the professional is an attorney, and the decision-maker is a judge or jury. The legal system is set up to resolve disputes. Fantastic!

However, neither party to the dispute may give five-star reviews to the process or the outcome when all is said and done. More like the opposite. In using this system:

  1. It's going to take years

  2. It's going to cost a lot

  3. The result is uncertain

  4. Even if you win, you still might not get paid

In general, lawsuits should be avoided. But you may have no choice. Sometimes things go wrong. People break promises. They act poorly. If a lawsuit is unavoidable, getting from the beginning to the end requires expert (attorney) help.

First, you have to allege specific causes of action that best fit the facts. There are elements –specific questions that need to be answered. Second, you have to gather evidence to prove or disprove those elements. Third, each side has to present their case for each element based on the evidence collected. Finally, a judge or jury decides the winner.

It's a lot of work, and during the process, your opinion of the strength of your case is going to change. After all, you are collecting new information, so new analysis. This means the value of the dispute to each side may change.

And when referring to value, that means money. Lawsuits are almost always about money. But you're not the first person to have your particular dispute. The same set of facts have happened before and have a standard dollar value, give or take. So once the main facts are in, reasonable people can agree on what the case is worth.

If you get into a dispute, it’s best to resolve it sooner rather than later. Not to say you should just throw money at it or give up. But disputes are stressful and not how you want to spend your time.

There’s probably a point in every case where you will get the best set of facts you’re going to get. That’s the point where you try to settle. A voluntary agreement is always better than one imposed on someone.

Nearly every case does eventually settle. But if one side doesn't want to agree, the legal maneuvering can go on forever. The facts of the case might matter less than the resources to fight on indefinitely.

Hiring a lawyer is not THE answer. It's the last-ditch measure to legally solve a problem. If everyone hired an attorney for every dispute or never agreed to settle, society would fall apart.

If you end up in a dispute and you've reached the limit of your abilities, it’s time to speak with an attorney. Be sure you understand the likely outcomes, costs, and timeframes involved before deciding to proceed forward.