DO IT YOURSELF DISPUTE RESOLUTION – GOOD LUCK!

There is something to be said for saving money. It always feels good, even if its only a few dollars here and there.

That is often the motivation for people trying to do things themselves instead of hiring a professional – that is, someone who does it all the time.

I was guilty of that with the tiles on my verandah at home. I laid them myself and nearly broke my back in the process. I never wanted to look at another tile in my life by the time I finished. But I thought I did a pretty good job.

Then the other day we had a builder and and architect at our house, and they both commented on the tiles. They couldn’t believe how bad they were.

They could just tell by looking at them. “Was the guy who laid these drunk when he did them?” my builder mate said, not knowing it was me he was taking a jab at.

And I thought I’d done a good job!

Its exactly the same with the law.

The number of times we get asked to fix things up! I wouldn’t mind if people just got a bit of advice first and then went off and did their thing. Then at least we could guide them and it would make it easier to fix later.

The best I can put it down to is that some people look at what we do and think its easy. “No problem,” they say “I’ll fix it myself. No way I’m paying a lawyer to do it.”

Good luck is all I can say. Especially when it comes to resolving commercial disputes.

Being Objective

There’s something about being once further removed from a problem to be able to see it for what it is. People get into a dispute with someone over a business deal, and in many cases its very hard for them to see it objectively. They are too close to it.

Its like losing at cards and then bidding on the next hand even though you’ve got no trumps. “Thats my money and I’m gonna get it back!” is the overriding thought pattern.

The number of times in recent years where we’ve had to resolve issues between people who’ve been in business together for twenty years and now they hate each other. They’ll sometimes do anything to “get” the other, even if that means snookering themselves in the process.

Dare I say it, two guys complete with egos, can be the worst.

Some people can retain a sense of rationality. They can reach a deal and then come to me, tell me what they’ve sorted out, and I document it so that it is clear for everyone. But these people seem to be few and far between. Many others simply believe they are right and the other is wrong. Simple as that.

Well the law doesn’t work like that.

I won’t say there are fifty shades of grey. But you know what I mean. So the first thing we can offer is objectivity.

Practical Experience

The second thing we can offer is experience and some acquired skill in negotiating disputes. We see the pickles that people get themselves into when things go wrong. We see this on a regular basis. People come to us because our job is to keep them safe. We’re used to it.

You see, when you’ve had a lot of practice dealing with disputes, you look at things objectively. You don’t take a position. Quite the opposite. You are looking for common ground so you’ve got something to try and bring the parties together.

Sometimes it is too far gone by the time they get to us – both sides have their stake in the ground and they will take a lot of convincing to forget about that and make a fresh start.

Confidentiality

But it can happen. I know it can happen. Sometimes we’ve even managed to restore some sort of relationship between the warring factions. But even if that is not possible anytime soon, a respectable result is often achieved reasonably swiftly, the stress valve can be turned off, and it is a confidential settlement that nobody needs to know about.

Clarity

And that’s the third thing we can offer. We can record the deal clearly and make sure everything is covered off and unambiguous. I’ve seen some disastrous home-made drafting efforts.

Court

With the best will in the world, and because it takes both sides to play ball, sometimes there is going to be no other way. You either let it go, or you go off to Court and a Judge will decide for you. By the way, we can help you there as well. We’d just rather not have to.

Trust your gut

All I would add at this point is that, if you have a gut feeling that something is not going right, whether with a business partner, a supplier, a customer, bank, employee or whoever, give us a call early. It may not come to anything, and maybe it won’t if we get onto it straight away. But at least lets strategise just in case, as well.

I can be contacted on 03 4500000 or russell@mawhinney.co.nz