Even after all these years it’s hard for us to admit that we weren't inspired by MargaretThatcher, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, or driven by an innate desire to serve and commit to the concepts of equity and justice.
Most of us were motivated by a high-powered American law firm of McKenzie, Brackman,Chaney and Kuzak. The firm at the centre of the fictional television series LALaw. Who couldn’t help but be swept up in the courtroom magic, not to mention the office politics and romance? Eloquent courtroom monologues, cleverly constructed cross-examinations, all delivered by gorgeous lawyers with high hair and power-suits. This was the law we wanted to be part of!
Unfortunately,it only took a year at university to realise that LA Law lied to us - many of us are still coming to terms with this betrayal. Courtrooms are not sexy;litigation is rarely exciting and choosing to litigate is actually a tool of last resort.
So, before you yell, "I’ll see you in court”, take the time to consider the realities of litigation and how it may impact both you and your business.
Litigation is expensive! Think about whether you can afford the legal fees. There's no guarantee that you're going to win so you may be covering your opponent’s costs plus the settlement amount. Some fights just aren’t worth having and if you're placing your business at risk of financial hardship, you need to decide if it’s worth it.
Litigating is stressful. It’s a long, drawn-out argument, which can have a negative impact on both you and your employees. It’s hard to get on with the day-to-day running of your business when you have litigation looming. You need to appreciate the consequences of preparing for battle on your own mental health and the morale of employees.
Preparing for litigation is an extremely thorough and exhaustive process. It may require input from not just yourself but a number of key stakeholders, including managers and employees. Time spent getting ready for trial is time spent away from your business - it’s distracting and redirects the focus of all involved.
And then there's the actual trial. Forget what you see on television and the movies.These are usually long, technical and difficult to follow, draining your energy and absorbing your precious time.
In business, reputation is everything, so it’s important that you weigh up the effect legal action may have on your brand. The courtroom is a public forum and the media have access to everything. Once you step inside, you give up the opportunity to keep your dispute private and you lose control of what is released to the public. Whether you win or lose, there's the risk that yourbrand will be damaged beyond repair. Even a substantial settlement won't act as adequate compensation if your standing amongst potential investors and clients is damaged.
Damage to relationships
Our legal system is adversarial. There's a winner and a loser, and this does nothing to enhance business relationships. Once you go to court with a party, it's unlikely that you'll be able to do business with them again.
When running a business, conflict is inevitable. You should have a number of strategies in place to manage conflict and look to other forms of resolution before it escalates into a dispute. Early intervention is key so as soon as you identify the potential for escalation, take preventative action by involving an expert who will provide an unbiased and objective analysis of the problem.