Dispute Resolution & Litigation

Finding yourself or your business in the middle of a legal dispute can be confronting. Disputes can have a significant toll on your business, health, and wellbeing – generally the longer they remain unresolved, the higher the cost.

We are experienced negotiators and advocates, with expertise in managing a range of disputes. We foster alternative dispute resolution processes to minimise the negative impact a dispute has on you or your business, and to achieve a workable fair solution as quickly as possible. We can assist with:

  • Commercial and business litigation
  • Partnership and shareholder disputes
  • Will disputes, estate disputes, family provision claims
  • Debt recovery and insolvency
  • Building and construction law
  • Property and leasing disputes
  • Dividing fence disputes
  • Contract disputes
  • Breach of copyright and intellectual property disputes
  • Equine law

Alternative Dispute Resolution – the first steps

Before thinking about court proceedings, the first course of action is almost always to try to resolve the matter using an alternative dispute resolution process. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to the various processes used to resolve a dispute without going to court. These processes are less formal and generally save time and money. They can also deliver more flexible outcomes than a court may order and can assist in preserving the relationship between the parties in dispute.

ADR processes include sending letters of demand, engaging in informal settlement conferences or mediation, or more formal procedures like arbitration, which resembles court processes in some ways but tends to be less formal and may have different rules.

Sometimes, you may have to participate in ADR because a contract requires that a matter first go to mediation or arbitration before it can go to court. Similarly, it is common for parties to court proceedings to be directed to attend a mediation to try to resolve a dispute before a matter will be heard by a court.

How does mediation work?

Mediation involves a neutral person (the mediator) meeting with the parties to a dispute and assisting them to reach a resolution. Mediation is usually confidential, and the mediator does not provide legal advice or determine the dispute.

Even if mediation does not provide a definitive outcome, it can at least identify the issues in dispute and narrow the unresolved matters. If an agreement is reached, it can be formalised in binding terms of settlement.

There are several benefits to using mediation:

  • The location, date and time for mediation is determined by agreement between the parties, as opposed to a court timetable. This usually means the dispute can potentially be resolved quicker and at the parties’ convenience.
  • The mediation setting is less formal than a court hearing, with a lower threshold for evidentiary formalities.
  • The parties can explore more creative solutions to resolve their dispute which might not be available through court orders.
  • Mediation offers an opportunity to preserve the parties’ relationship, particularly when they intend to continue working together. This is an important consideration in family law disputes and is also beneficial in commercial arrangements where contracts for ongoing products or services have been entered.

What is civil litigation?

Civil litigation is the process of having a disputed matter determined through the court system, generally after the parties have failed to resolve the dispute using ADR processes.

Civil law grants to individuals the right to sue for compensation or for specific action in matters such as breach of contract, and negligence. The cause of action must relate to the breach of a specific law or laws, be clearly articulated, and supported by evidence which may require both expert and lay witness evidence.

Court proceedings are generally lengthy, complex and costly, but may be the only viable option where the parties are intractable, there is a need for urgent orders, or a claim needs to be defended.

Proceedings generally involve the stages of commencing action – filing pleadings (where the dispute is described by the plaintiff and defended by the defendant), discovery (disclosure of documents by both sides), trial (where the judge will hear the testimony of witnesses and make a ruling in the dispute), settlement and appeal.

Parties involved in a litigated legal dispute may settle the matter at any stage without proceeding to a final court hearing. In such cases they will need to enter into a deed of settlement and consent orders to dispose of the proceedings in court.

Different kinds of civil disputes have different time limitations imposed so it is important to seek legal advice quickly to find out if you can commence proceedings. We will outline your rights and provide an assessment of your matter so you can make an informed decision.

If you need assistance, call 03 5166 1858 (Traralgon) or 03 5127 2666 (Moe) or email [email protected] for expert legal advice.

We provide assistance Australia wide via video conference or other electronic communication.