Disputes Resolution Overview

Lawsuits, Arbitrations, Mediations, and Settlement Negotiations


ll disputes, including business disputes or disputes over real estate (between landlord and tenant or between neighbors) can be gut-wrenching, disillusioning, and very costly, whether partner disputes, shareholder disputes, disputes between business co-owners or their suppliers or customers, landlord - tenant disputes, or neighbor disputes dealing with boundary issues or water intrusions or bushes or trees.

Disputes can present opportunities for insensitive, greedy, and unscrupulous lawyers to create a ‘pit bull’ or ‘cock fight’ atmosphere between the disputing parties which raise disputing parties’ temperatures and raise their attorney fees. And these disputes often tempt an ethical but egotistical lawyer to make great time-consuming (and fee-heavy) efforts to prove that he or she is ‘smarter’ or ‘more right about the law’ or a ‘better client champion’ than the opposing attorney – overlooking the fact that this “proof” is being paid for by a client.

In my years of experience I have found most such disputes to involve people who each have their ‘good sides’ and their ‘bad sides’ and who are the victims of poorly written agreements between them or absence of any agreement, and now suffer the consequences of mutual misunderstandings or frustrations or disappointments in each other, or even unsatisfied but unspoken agendas of expectations or grievances outside of their business or neighbor relationships.

As the attorney for a party in a dispute I set myself the tasks of advocating for the interests they can successfully promote in our legal system (usually framed in terms of money paid out or insulated from pay-out, or a court order for action or non-action to protect my client’s interests). However, I always try to keep the client aware of how costly my efforts can be, and of any potential I see for a solution short of the ‘nuclear war’ of going all the way to a victory in a lawsuit (with a taxpayer subsidized dispute settler – judge or jury) or an arbitration (a disputant-paid dispute settler or “arbitrator”). As many judges will point out, a dispute which is creatively settled between disputing parties, notwithstanding their dislike of each other now and maybe forever, can be much more in these parties’ interest that a decision by a judge or arbitrator which tends to follow rigid ‘win-lose’ alternatives.

So, I spend the time and effort to demonstrate to my client’s opponent, and the opposing attorney, how much the opponent can be hurt if the dispute goes into a trial or arbitration, BUT I always keep in mind possible settlement solutions. If the opposing attorney is of the same mind as me, we can often negotiate such a settlement by ourselves, and save our clients huge amounts of attorney fees and other costs. Or, often the opposing attorney and I feel that we should recommend that our clients, and the attorneys, use a “mediator” -- a sort of neutral minded “village wise elder” -- to try to reach a settlement.