Business dispute cases tend to be very complicated. They often involve complex laws, various legal issues, and multiple parties. They also require solid evidence to win the case. Thus, the best way to prepare a strong business dispute case is to hire a local business dispute attorney who has experience in handling such matters.
The right business dispute attorney can:
- Make sure that you have a viable business claim;
- Discuss your options for legal recourse and the possible remedies you can recover;
- Explain the requirements of the legal option you choose to pursue;
- Assess the evidence that you provide and can determine if useful evidence is missing;
- Review and draft necessary legal documents;
- Ensure that you meet filing deadlines;
- Inform you of your rights and protections under the relevant laws;
- Provide representation in court and/or at settlement conferences; and
- Offer legal advice, so you can make educated decisions about the case.
Aside from retaining and meeting with a business dispute attorney, some other things you can do to prepare a strong business dispute case include:
- Compiling, organizing, and preserving case-related evidence;
- Avoiding behavior that can hurt your case (e.g., destroying evidence, insulting the other party, failing to cooperate, posting details about the case online, etc.);
- Attending mediation with your lawyer and the other party before filing a lawsuit;
- Creating a list of potential witnesses and other questions you may have for your attorney about the case; and
- Consulting your attorney if you have questions about your case, would like to know the status of your case, or need to tell them about an issue that could affect the outcome of your case (e.g., you forged bookkeeping records).
What Type of Documents and Questions Should I Bring to My Business Dispute Attorney?
The type of documents that a client should bring to the meeting with their business dispute attorney will largely depend on the business issues in the case.
For instance, an employee who is suing their employer for harassment may want to bring their employment contract, their employee handbook, and their employer’s company policies on harassment. On the other hand, if it is a zoning law dispute, then the client may want to bring their business lease documents.
Generally speaking, some types of documents that a client should bring to meet with their business dispute attorney include:
- Business contracts related to the issue (e.g., contracts with vendors, employment agreements, leases, purchase or sale contracts, non-disclosure agreements, etc.);
- Financial documents, such as pay stubs, tax returns, business bank account statements, invoices, receipts, and any other financial records that pertain to the matter;
- A list of witnesses along with their contact information (e.g., if a dispute occurred between the partners and other partners witnessed the incident);
- Court documents, such as decisions related to prior cases, proof that the parties attended mediation, notices from government agencies, etc.;
- If the case is based on an intellectual property issue, then evidence that the business owns the intellectual property in question (e.g., trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets);
- Photos, videos, emails, text messages, letters, recordings, and any other evidence that is associated with and could potentially support the case.
In addition, the client may also want to prepare a list of questions that they have and bring it with them to their meeting. Some examples of questions that the client should ask include:
- Approximately, how much the business lawsuit might cost and how the attorney bills clients for such cases;
- Whether it is worth going to trial over the issue or if it is better for the client to settle the matter out of court;
- The likelihood that the client will win the case;
- Whether there is any evidence that the attorney feels is missing and if the client should find it or where they can find it;
- How long it could take to resolve the case and whether that will impact business operations;
- If there are other parties that the client should sue or request to have joined to the case;
- Whether the client should also hire a criminal defense attorney;
- Questions about the attorney’s background and past track record in handling similar matters; and
- Any other questions the client has about the case itself, the attorney, or the applicable laws and procedures.
What Makes a Strong or Weak Business Dispute Case?
Some factors that can make a business dispute case stronger include:
- Hiring an experienced business dispute attorney to provide representation in court or at a settlement conference;
- Gathering and submitting solid evidence to support a business dispute claim;
- Being flexible and willing to compromise with the other party;
- Having reasonable expectations about reaching a solution;
- Cooperating with all parties involved in the matter (e.g., other parties, businesses, clients, the court, court clerk, counsel, etc.);
- Attending mediation before going to court;
- Filing a lawsuit before a state’s statute of limitations expires;
- Obtaining insurance and making sure that the insurance coverage is not expired; and
- Having a clear and valid business contract in place prior to the case.
In contrast, some factors that may make a business dispute case weaker include:
- Not having a business contract, losing the contract, or having an invalid contract;
- Failing to gather sufficient evidence to support or refute the claim;
- Destroying or concealing case-related evidence;
- Having unreasonable expectations about the settlement agreement;
- Being inflexible and unwilling to compromise with the other party;
- Not seeking legal representation to argue the case or to negotiate a settlement;
- Failing to cooperate with the other party (e.g., attending mediation, informal negotiations, simply speaking with the other party);
- Ignoring procedural requirements or blatantly violating the law;
- Being involved in multiple past lawsuits for the same issue;
- Failing to obtain insurance or to inform the insurance company about the case; and
- Not hiring a defense attorney if it is also a criminal matter (e.g., white-collar crimes).
What Types of Business Dispute Cases Benefit the Most from an Attorney’s Help?
In general, the types of business dispute cases that benefit the most from an attorney’s help are those that involve complex legal issues and pose a risk of bankrupting the entire company. Some common examples of these types of business dispute cases may include:
- Business dispute cases involving theft, fraud, or embezzlement issues;
- Breach of business contract claims;
- Premises liability lawsuits;
- Personal injury claims;
- Disputes over the sale or purchase of a business;
- Breach of fiduciary claims or shareholder disputes;
- Products liability lawsuits;
- Breach of warranty claims;
- Zoning law disputes;
- Defamation cases (i.e., damage to a business’s reputation);
- Exposure of trade secrets without consent or stolen intellectual property;
- Disputes about the business, such as those between business owners, partners, corporate members, and so on; and
- Disputes over employment practices (e.g., discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour lawsuits, etc.).
While the above list does not contain every type of case that may benefit from the help of an attorney, it does provide the most common types of business dispute cases wherein hiring an attorney can give the client a huge advantage in the case.
When Do I Need a Business Disputes Attorney?
Business dispute lawsuits often pose challenging legal issues that require extensive knowledge of complex corporate laws and someone with legal expertise to navigate the resolution process. Thus, you will most likely need to hire a local business dispute attorney if your case involves any of the following factors:
- The lawsuit could potentially bankrupt you and/or the entire company;
- The business could lose large sums of money and/or other company assets;
- The lawsuit could damage your reputation and/or the reputation of the business;
- The lawsuit could cause you to lose your job along with personal assets;
- The issue involves a contract matter, but there is no valid contract in place or the contract is missing;
- If you own the business and your business is not properly registered; and/or
- If you are not sure whether to go to trial or to settle the case.
In addition, you will most certainly need a business dispute attorney if you or your business are experiencing any of the following business-related issues:
- A prospective, current, or former employee is suing the company for harassment or employment discrimination;
- If you own the business and are being penalized for causing an environmental problem (e.g., pollution, runoff from using poisonous chemicals, etc.);
- A state or federal agency has filed a complaint against you and/or is investigating your business for potentially violating the law; or
- If you are selling your business or are attempting to acquire another company.