Do you need assistance with a dispute?
Set up an appointment with one of our dispute resolution experts for further advice today.
10 October, 2022 | Nathan Tetzlaff
This article is a list of simple strategies and things for you to understand which should help you minimise your stress, increase the value you get from your lawyer, and maximize your chances of coming out of a legal proceeding with a good result.
Law can be technical and doesn’t necessarily make immediate sense to non-lawyers. There will usually be a pretty good reason why the law says what it says, and avoiding future problems may depend on understanding what you should or should not do and why.
If you don’t understand why your lawyer is advising you in a certain way, it’s best to say so, and ask questions until you do.
Let’s be real; lawyers aren’t free. In many cases you’ll get much more in value from your lawyer than you pay, but there is an up-front cost for fees. Make sure this money is not wasted – listen to your lawyer’s advice even if you decide not to follow it.
I have attended more than one meeting with clients where I don’t think I completed an entire sentence without being interrupted. Those clients were more interested in arguing about what they thought the situation should be, than listening to my advice about how to deal with the actual situation.
We want to ensure that you get enough time to explain the situation and your views, but you should make sure that you give us enough time to explain your legal position and best course of action.
Some clients want advice that they think should be easy for us to give on the spot. Sometimes we can, and that’s a good feeling. On other occasions the situation is more complex than our client realises, and there’s no quick or simple answer to give.
Our role is to provide reliable and correct advice about dealing with problems. Our clients rely on our advice to make significant decisions, and we take this very seriously. In some cases where a situation is clear and straight forward, we can provide advice on the spot. In other cases we may need to review your documents, consider recent Judgments on the topic, and take a few minutes just to sit and think about the situation. It may not be possible to provide an immediate answer to your “one quick question”.
The same applies to estimates of our costs. A common question is “How much would it cost to do X?” The answer is almost never going to be certain because litigation is inherently unpredictable. We do our best to provide accurate estimates (usually a range) but even the process of considering an estimate can be more complex than it might seem. To give an estimate of costs we need to know what steps need to be taken, and this can change depending on the laws applying and the facts of the case. In some cases to provide an estimate we need to first review the facts, consider options, and create a strategy for running the entire case. This can be a significant process that takes a little time to do properly.
Everyone knows that life isn’t fair. It’s less well known that law isn’t always fair either. Laws are drafted by the government to try to achieve a particular outcome. They are generally well-intentioned but may apply to your particular situation in a way that wasn’t anticipated or isn’t quite fair.
Alternatively, the intended outcome of a law might be something that you don’t agree with. Employment law is a great example of this as employers often complain about the extent of government regulation and consider this an overreach into their businesses.
When you have a legal dispute, you may have to overcome the mental hurdle of accepting that the law doesn’t work the way that you think it should. Once you grasp the reality of the legal situation and accept that the law may not result in an outcome you think is just or appropriate, you’ll find it much easier to receive good practical advice.
The popular view of lawyers thanks to TV shows, is of a hard-nosed battler who doesn’t give an inch, fights everything, and ultimately wins (because truth and justice must win by the end of the episode).
The reality of disputes is that things are seldom black and white. A dispute might easily arise from the interpretation of a clause in a contract. In that case both parties might genuinely believe that they are in the right, no one is behaving “badly”, and the question of who will win if the matter goes to court is a coin toss about what the judge thinks on the day.
Settlement between the parties to avoid the cost and uncertainty of going to court is often a legitimate and reasonable thing to consider and may be the best available option. However, discussing this can seem like negativity to some people and they refuse to consider anything less than complete victory.
To those people, hearing a lawyer explain that they could lose and there are significant risks and costs involved, isn’t very welcome and seems like “loser talk”. It’s very easy for the lawyer-client relationship to take a turn for the worse. Please understand that even if we aren’t telling you things you want to hear, and even if we are suggesting reaching a compromise, we are still on your side and trying to achieve the best possible outcome for you based on your risk profile.
If you want us to fight, we’ll fight. But behind the scenes, we want you to be aware of your risks so you can make informed decisions. Remember we see a lot of cases where a gung-ho approach can backfire. We’re on your side.
Trust us, we have a vast amount of experience dealing with disputes. We’ll make sure that the case is managed, and we have everything that we need from you. Court cases move slowly so don’t worry if it seems like nothing much is happening. We push for the quickest resolution of your disputes possible.
Legal disputes are always stressful, and this can get in the way of getting the most from your lawyer. At Smith and Partners we do our best to understand your particular approach to a dispute, and communicate with you in a way that is effective and easily understood.
Do you need assistance with a dispute? Contact our dispute resolution team on 09 837 6890 to set up an appointment today.
21 March, 2017 | Nathan Tetzlaff
1 May, 2019 | Nathan Tetzlaff