I’ve heard people who are in a business or employment dispute often complain, “I’m stuck in this dispute, and now we’ll have to litigate. I have no options.” If you take nothing else from this blog post, know this: They are usually wrong; there are options.
Most people in disputes don’t know they have options and if they do still don’t consider them. They may have heard of mediation and arbitration but really don’t know exactly how they work, what the differences are and when to utilize each one. They have probably not heard of Collaborative Law, Conciliation or Case Evaluation. They usually just start the litigation process, which is like opting for legal surgery without considering some alternative first or at least getting a second opinion.
Why don’t we approach legal disputes the way we approach medical issues. When it comes to our health, we get advice from doctors we know and trust, and we often get at least a second opinion. We don’t just call the surgeon and start the prep for surgery first. Yet that is what most people do when they are in a legal dispute.
When I was 13, my father taught me that everything is negotiable, especially if you are willing to walk away from the deal. His lesson was the core message of what those in the dispute resolution field today refer to as having good “BATNA” (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). When you don’t need to buy what they are selling to you, when you can and will walk away, you have great BATNA.
My dad also gave my wife one piece of advice when she married me: “Make sure you always give Michael options; he needs to have options.” This was great advice for her. I am a true Libran in the sense of weighing options before deciding. That’s part of what drives me to provide my clients with options for how they should resolve their disputes.
Legal disputes affect your health and well-being in more ways than one. So why wouldn’t you check what options are available for resolving this dispute and get good counsel on the pros and cons of each alternative to going to court before you choose a course of action?
Your best “First Step” is finding a legal counselor that will assess your situation, teach you about the dispute resolution options available to you, recommend which one is the right process for you and tell you why. Then, and only then, you can make an informed decision about what process to use. It should be a lot more like the medical process than you think. If your lawyer skips this step, you would do well to get a second (legal) opinion.