How to Avoid Business Disputes and Resolve Them Without a Full Trial
Ragain & Clark September 23, 2022
Business disputes can cost you considerable time and money. As a result, business owners should make an effort to avoid disputes when possible and understand their options when they arise.
An Ounce of Prevention
While some disputes may be inevitable and unfortunately unresolvable, making an effort to prevent disputes can pay long-term dividends for your business. Business owners should regularly give some thought to potential sources of friction and address them before disputes arise. Some of the things you can do to prevent business disputes from arising include the following:
- Adopt well-drafted partnership/shareholder agreements and other foundational documents
- Regularly review accounting standards, financial practices, and financial records
- Keep current on industry trends and developments
- Stay abreast of any governmental regulations and actively monitor your compliance
- Develop, implement, and maintain programs for managing risk
- Regular review of insurance policies and coverage
- Develop contingency plans for emergency situations and sudden, unexpected losses
This is a tall order for many businesses, especially businesses that don’t have the manpower or resources to devote to risk management. These tasks often get shuffled to the bottom of the pile and as a result, never get accomplished. One of the best things you can do to guard against disputes is to engage outside professional help such as an accountant and a lawyer.
When the Inevitable Occurs
Unfortunately, there is no way to dispute-proof your business. Sooner or later, you will likely encounter a dispute you can’t resolve. While litigation can be expensive, it isn’t necessarily your only option. Some of the alternatives available in Montana include the following:
- Arbitration – a process where the dispute is decided by a neutral third-party arbitrator or panel of arbitrators.
- Mediation – a process involving a neutral third-party mediator who assists the parties in negotiating a resolution of the dispute. The mediator does not “decide” the dispute or issue a ruling, unlike in arbitration.
- Settlement conferences – similar to arbitration, your case is presented to a judge or panel of judges. The judge or panel assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the dispute, providing a glimpse of what may happen if you go to litigation. This option often leads to more productive settlement negotiations.
- Mini-trials – these are stripped-down quasi-trials where the parties determine what issues will be resolved. The focus is typically on reaching a practical solution rather than resolving a legal issue.
- Summary jury trial – this is an expedited trial where your case is presented to a jury and completed in a day or less. The jury decides the case, but the decision is only advisory and non-binding. Because it offers a preview of how a jury might decide their case, it often results in a settlement.
- Judge pro tempore – If you have filed a lawsuit in district court, the parties can request that it be referred to a Judge Pro Tempore for immediate trial and decision. The case is tried just like a normal trial but on a much shorter timeline.
Talk to a Business Dispute Attorney at Ragain & Clark Today
Whether you are looking to avoid a dispute or need to get one resolved, we can help. To discuss your needs, contact us today at 406-651-8888 (Billings) or 307-388-6400 (Worland) to schedule a consultation.