What Are The Most Common Types Of Business Disputes That Your Firm Typically Sees And Handles?
We handle a lot of business-to-business contract disputes, business course of conduct disputes and represent small hospitals, healthcare practices, doctors, and other healthcare providers involving regulatory agencies, such as the Mississippi Division of Medicaid or the HHS/CMS on the federal government’s side, which deal with Medicare. In short, we can help any business owner who is being sued or believes they need to file a lawsuit or has a regulatory issue.
Who Do You Represent In These Cases? Do You Work With Both Small And Large Businesses?
We represent businesses of all shapes and sizes—from the sole proprietorship to the Fortune 150 company. We represent construction companies, oil and gas companies, restaurants, casinos…you name it. If it’s a business litigation issue, then we’re here to help out. However, we generally do not handle workers’ compensation claims in defense of businesses or employees who have been injured.
When Do Clients Hire You For Their Business Litigation Needs?
Some clients hire us for planning purposes, but most hire us when they realize they have a problem. In addition to a law degree, my law partner and I each have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, so we completely understand what our clients are going through when it comes to running a business. For this reason, we have more to offer than many other business attorneys.
What Are Some Early Signs Or Significant Indicators That Someone Should Contact A Business Law Attorney?
Getting served with a lawsuit is one early indicator that a business owner should contact a business law attorney. Once served with a lawsuit in Mississippi state court, a business has 30 days to respond. In federal court, a business has 21 days to respond. There are several things we can accomplish up front, including the filing of motions before the filing of an answer to the complaint. Waiting until the last minute will severely limit what we are able to do.
Another indicator of the need for an attorney is a potential breach of contract, such as by a third party’s failure to pay for rendered goods or services. As soon as we are retained, we will launch an investigation into the case; the sooner we are able to do this, the more likely we are to gather evidence that will help our client.
If a business owner has questions about whether they can take legal action against another entity or vice versa, the safest decision would be to contact an attorney to determine their rights. In the best-case scenario, both sides to a dispute will obtain lawyers, and the matter will be resolved before it escalates to a legal action. This will not only save the working relationship, but also time and money.
If a lawsuit is inevitable, mediation can be a good option—even if no one walks away happy. In fact, all good mediators will say that a good day at the office is a day when no one leaves happy, because this means that everyone had to compromise in one way or another. Unless the parties are truly willing to take a case all the way to trial, giving up something is inevitable, and the sooner that happens through mediation, the less expensive it will be. However, some issues are extremely important and cannot be compromised. In that case, we prepare for trial to protect the rights of our client.
What Are Some Examples Of Proactive Steps A Business Can Take To Avoid Future Business Disputes? Is It Necessary Or A Good Idea To Have Business Counsel Such As Yourselves On Retainer?
Having a trusted law firm on retainer is the ideal situation. Many business-to-business contracts go unreviewed for extended periods of time and do not get updated when necessary. It is important to have an attorney ensure that these contracts remain consistent with the kind of working relationship that exists between the businesses that are parties to those contracts.
A couple of years ago, we represented a big construction and development company that had a contract which stated that if a client failed to pay them within 90 days, the company would need to file a lawsuit within those 90 days. When a business failed to pay the company within 90 days, the company did not file a lawsuit, but instead just continued trying to collect the money. The company ended up filing a lawsuit long after the 90 days had passed, which allowed the other side to argue that since the language in the contract was not followed, the lawsuit should be dismissed and the client should not have to pay. Ultimately, we were successful in litigation, but a lot of trouble could have been avoided had the contract been updated and followed properly.
Having an attorney on retainer can also help a business obtain early resolution to some matters. It can be difficult for two business owners who are in disagreement to sit down and try to talk to each other. In fact, we have encountered a lot of people who can hardly be in the same room together. In these situations, it is much easier for the parties to communicate through their respective lawyers.
Lawyers speak the truth to their clients, give them counsel, and play the role of mediator, so to speak. We can remind our clients of how time-consuming and expensive the trial process can be, and help them determine whether trial is really something they want to pursue. In addition, a lawyer can encourage mediation before the filing of a lawsuit. The mediation process would allow all of the parties to attempt an agreement or a solution.
It is extremely useful to have a lawyer who understands the business and can write, review, and/or update contracts in a way that best suits the operations of that particular business. A good law firm’s involvement with a business will ensure that the contracts make sense, and that the business knows what to do should a problem arise.
What Are Alternative Resolution Methods To Business Litigation Matters?
Mediation is one of the main alternative resolution methods to business litigation matters. It is a process whereby the parties show up to an office or courthouse and speak to a mediator while in separate rooms. The mediator is an unbiased third party who is in no way connected to the lawsuit. The mediator’s job is to go back and forth between each party’s room to communicate the other side’s position with the ultimate goal of getting the parties to come to an agreement. Mediation is not forced and a party should not want to resolve the matter before attempting mediation.
The mediator should give honest feedback to each party regarding the strengths and weaknesses of his/her/its case, which is something that even lawyers may have a tough time doing because they are in a position to advocate only for their client. For this reason, many lawyers may not even see the potential weaknesses in their cases. The ability to identify such weaknesses can lead to the resolution of disagreements, and even if not, it can provide a business owner with a better understanding of how strong or weak his/her/its case is, and guide their actions moving forward. At end of the day, everyone is free to get up and walk away from mediation; there is nothing binding about it unless an agreement is reached and signed.
Another form of alternative resolution is arbitration. Many contracts require arbitration, which is a way to have a dispute resolved by an arbitrator outside the courts. After reviewing all of the evidence, the arbitrator will make a ruling that is binding on everyone involved. If a contract contains an arbitration provision, it will be important to consider which law of which state will be binding, because it is not uncommon in today’s world for a company in one state to conduct business with a company or multiple companies in other states. If that is the case, the question will become which state’s laws will apply, and where arbitration will take place. In addition, an arbitration provision might dictate that the loser of arbitration be required to pay the expenses of arbitration. In order to be prepared for this, it is important to have an attorney review the provision and advise his/her client on what to expect.
The last alternative resolution method involves the lawyers from each side coming together to try to reach an agreement. Since a mediator or arbitrator is not required, this is likely the least expensive option.
I Started A Small Company With A Partner And It Has Significantly Expanded, But Now We Are Having Disagreements; Should I Hire A Business Litigation Attorney Now Or Wait Until Something Actually Happens?
The earlier an attorney is hired, the less expensive it will be and the quicker the disagreement will be resolved. The job of a business attorney is not only to litigate, but also to counsel clients through the uncertainty and challenges of running a business. The expansion of a business is reason enough to hire a lawyer, because expansion comes with obstacles, opportunities, and potential issues with state and/or federal agencies. The sooner a business lawyer can begin addressing these things, the better the overall outcome.
Do You Find That Most Clients Who Are Dealing With Business Disputes Underestimate The Costs, Time, And Complexity Of Litigation?
Clients absolutely tend to underestimate how expensive, time-consuming, and complex litigation can be. When dealing with business litigation, there is just no way around the need to hire a lawyer, who will have to paid on an hourly basis rather than on a contingency basis.
With regard to the amount of time it takes, it is important to know that nothing in the legal system moves fast. We try to move cases along as fast as possible, but we are at the mercy of the court schedules.
Litigation is complex. The process of discovery can take a significant amount of time, and will involve questions and requests for myriad of documents from the other side, as well as depositions. As a result, many days will have to be set aside to deal with litigation—days that would otherwise be spent running the business. Since the process may require depositions from employees of the company, the business owner will have to compensate and cover for those employees while they are away. Small medical practices with only one doctor will have to essentially shut down the entire practice on days when the doctor must go to mediation or deal with preparation for trial. This alone can be very costly, and it doesn’t even account for the trial itself, which could take weeks.
There is nothing easy about litigation, which is why we say with all sincerity that if an issue can be resolved prior to litigation, it probably should be. With that being said, the American court system is the greatest in the world, and it’s there for a reason. Sometimes people just cannot come to an agreement, and if that is the case, we will be there to guide and represent our clients through trial.
What Are Some Of The Biggest Mistakes That You Find Or See Business Owners Make When It Comes To Being Involved In Business Litigation Matters?
Refusing to compromise, settling too soon, and not contacting an attorney early enough are common mistakes made by business owners who are dealing with business disputes or litigation. Oftentimes, a business owner will actually overestimate the cost of an attorney and choose not to hire one as a result, only to realize down the line that an attorney is necessary. At that point, it may be more expensive than it would have been had an attorney been hired from the beginning. This can be likened to the consequence of ignoring a small plumbing problem; ignoring the problem allows it to get bigger, at which point hiring a plumber to fix the problem is both necessary and more expensive…Read More
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