If negotiations to settle a dispute break down completely then there are a number of alternatives to court proceedings which you and the other party should consider, such as mediation or arbitration.
Mediation is an increasingly popular way of resolving disputes and is encouraged by the courts. It is usually far quicker and cheaper than court proceedings, with a success rate of around 80%.
Mediations are private and confidential. They operate on a “without prejudice” basis which means that if the dispute is not resolved then any admissions which one party makes during the mediation cannot be relied upon by the other party later if the dispute goes to court.
However, mediation is not suitable for every dispute. Anyone using mediation should be prepared to compromise to some extent. The emphasis is on conciliation rather than conflict and heated exchanges are usually avoided. Mediation is particularly useful if you want privacy and a quick result, and the parties hope to maintain their business relationship.
Arbitration is like court proceedings except it is conducted privately. This means the dispute, and any sensitive information that it involves, is kept away from the public eye. It is often quicker and cheaper than using the courts because the parties can agree to cut out any unnecessary procedures. Also, the parties can choose arbitrators who have specialist knowledge of the issues in dispute.
However, arbitration is not always quicker and cheaper than the courts. The arbitrator’s fees can be substantial and are in addition to your legal fees. Occasionally it is necessary to obtain assistance from the courts which can mean delays and further costs.