Resolving disputes efficiently and effectively is important to the success of your business.
Our team of lawyers are experienced in advising and representing businesses of all sizes on a broad range of issues including:
- Professional negligence
- Breach of contract
- Debt recovery and enforcement of judgements
- Boardroom and shareholder disputes
- Partnership disputes
- Employment disputes
- Commercial property disputes
- Intellectual property infringement
- Judicial review
- Regulatory law & defence
- Cost recovery
- Mediation & alternative dispute resolution
Resolving business disputes requires common sense as well as legal know how. We will try to help you achieve a practical, cost-effective resolution of your dispute in a way that takes into account the realities of your business. We will support you with early evaluation, negotiation and alternative dispute resolution all the way through to court action and enforcement.
We will always be clear about the cost of our services and will provide a fixed fee wherever possible. We also offer a range of funding options and will never undertake work before you agree to it.
If I win my commercial litigation case, will I get back all of my costs?
Sadly, the most helpful answer to this is no.
In most cases, the winning party gets back most of their costs. This can vary between around 75% down to 50% in extreme cases.
If the court thinks a party has acted unreasonably, they might not get their costs at all, even if they win. This can be used to your advantage.
We will often advise our clients to make an attractive settlement offer very early in the process. If the other side fails unreasonably to accept the offer, we will have a much better chance of getting back all of our client's costs after the matter has been decided.
What about no win, no fee?
There are often commercial litigation cases that we will take on based on what we call a conditional fee agreement (CFA).
Under a CFA, the client generally pays us no fees unless the case is won.
We will, however, in most cases, require that our out of pocket expenses like the court fees are paid by the client in any event. The downside of this approach is that, following a win, you will pay us an enhanced fee (success fee) to take account of the risk that we have shared with you.
Until recently, the losing party was required to pay the success fee. The law has now changed however and the winning party can only claim their normal costs from the loser irrespective of whether they have to pay something on top of that to their lawyer under a CFA.
Can I get legal aid?
Legal aid is still available in a few cases although it has been reduced very significantly in recent years. This firm does not offer legal aid work
What does it cost to sue someone?
There is no one answer to this question.
The minimum court fee to start a small claim is £25. Court fees will then depend on how much money is at stake and how far the proceedings have progressed.
At the other end of the scale, the court fees for a claim worth £350k will be at least £3,000. How much you have to pay for the associated legal advice will depend less on the value of the claim and more on its complexity.
How much would a solicitor cost here?
Realistically, our assistance on a small claim would have to be limited in order to avoid charging more than the claim itself is worth.
Typically, if a large case is not settled before trial, the client will have paid us between £20k and £40k in fees.
However, most claims are settled long before the case comes before a judge.
Should I instruct a barrister?
Sometimes a barrister is just what a case needs.
Mostly, a barrister will want a solicitor to be involved as well.
Generally, a solicitor will prepare the case and a barrister will argue the case in court. Our team includes a specially qualified solicitor advocate who regularly appears in court on behalf of our clients.
This can save the duplication and cost of instructing a barrister and means that the advocate has a much more intimate knowledge of the case he is arguing than a barrister normally would.
However, this doesn't mean we never instruct barristers. Barristers can often help by contributing expertise in very specific areas of the law.
Do my witnesses have to come to court?
Normally the answer is yes.
These days, witnesses will always be expected to produce a written statement of their evidence (or to have one produced for them).
If the witness is not in court to have their evidence tested by answering questions on it though, the judge will often want to practically ignore the evidence.
There are cases where the evidence is not in dispute and the parties will agree that a particular witness does not need to attend.
What are the steps involved in court proceedings?
The key stages of a case at court include:
- Issue: This is the starting point where the court first receives the claim.
- Acknowledgement of Service: This is a formal message from the defendant that more time is needed to defend the claim;
- Defence: This is a formal statement from the defendant as to why the claim should fail;
- Case Management Conference: The court gives directions as to what should happen and when in the run up to the trial;
- Disclosure: Each side has to show the other side the documents that are relevant to the case;
- Witness Evidence: Each side sends the other side written witness statements which are intended to prove their case;
- Expert Reports: In cases where the court needs help from experts in order to decide technical matters, directions will be given for one or more experts to write reports to assist the judge
- Trial: The judge will hear from the witnesses and from the parties and decide the case.
Should I consider mediation?
Yes. We will often recommend mediation as part of the litigation process as it can often lead to a settlement and save a great deal of time and cost.
Mediation is a facilitated negotiation process. An independent third party mediator makes no decision, but merely assists the parties to come to an agreement by getting them talking and by asking probing questions.
Where a significant sum is at stake, we will often accompany our clients at a mediation and advocate and negotiate on their behalf in order to get the best settlement agreement possible. Immediately following agreement at a mediation and before the parties have had time to sleep on their decision we will assist further by drafting a written settlement agreement which becomes binding and provides a final resolution of the dispute.
Can I just send the bailiffs to get my money?
Generally a bailiff will only take action when a court has made an order which has not been fulfilled.
Contrary to popular understanding, the bailiffs are not 'heavies' coercing people out of their money. They simply exercise rights given to them by the courts to obtain payment. This will typically include collecting valuable assets (like TVs or cars) and selling them in order to pay the debt.
What happens if the defendant doesn't pay following judgment?
The two most common options to get your money if the judgement is not paid out are to either send a bailiff to collect it or to take a charge over property.
Often the threat of removal of assets by a bailiff will be enough to convince the debtor to pay up.
If there are no assets which a bailiff can remove and the debtor owns a house, a charge on the house can be taken to secure the debt.
This does not guarantee payment, but it provides for information to be provided when the property is sold such that the proceeds of sale (if they are sufficient) can be accessed to pay the debt.
This can be a long term process. In some cases the courts will go on to grant an order for sale so that the debtor's house can be sold to pay off the debt irrespective of whether that was their wish.
How long does it take to sue someone in court?
Starting a claim is relatively quick.
Depending on complexity, a claim can be issued at court within a few days or weeks.
Before going to court however, it is a requirement of the court rules that you try and resolve your dispute without involving the court. This usually means writing a formal letter to the other side setting out the claim and giving them a few weeks to respond.
Once the claim has gone to court, judgement is normally available between four and twelve months.