Business disputes are common, and resolutions can be complicated. Disputes can involve disagreements over payments or the terms of a contract, claims against a business made by employees or customers, and copyright infringement or other intellectual property issues, to name just a few. When a company hires a business attorney, the attorney can help resolve a dispute through mediation, binding arbitration, or litigation.
It is fairly common that a business contract will include an alternative dispute resolution clause, which requires that disputes be resolved through mediation or arbitration. Mediation is a relatively informal process in which two parties talk over the dispute with the aid of a professional mediator. A mediator’s job is simply to facilitate the conversation, but the mediator cannot make decisions or offer legal advice. As facilitators, they help both parties clarify the outcome they want to get and find areas for compromise. A lawyer can assist this process by drafting a binding agreement based on the outcome of the mediation.
Arbitration is similar to a trial in that both parties in the dispute bring their case before a judge or, in this case, an arbitrator. An arbitrator is a legal professional, but not necessarily an attorney or a judge. An arbitrator is typically a professional person who has in-depth experience in a particular area, such as intellectual property, and who has undergone special training to become an arbitrator. While a judge’s role is to make a decision based on evidence provided, an arbitrator tries to help the two parties come to a mutual agreement.
If the parties in dispute are not able to come to an agreement, or if the claim brought by or against a business is more serious than a contract dispute, litigation may be necessary. If one party is accused of breaking the law, the case will go to criminal court; if the case involves a lawsuit, on the other hand, it will go to civil court. Lawyers also assist clients in special courts, such as bankruptcy or tax court.
Litigators provide not only representation and advocacy, but they work with clients to plan the best course of action in order to resolve a dispute. When choosing an attorney, business owners should look for someone who has knowledge of their industry as well as experience in commercial law.