The word ‘Litigation’ sounds pretty legal, but you can call it ‘dispute resolution’ if it makes you feel any better. Either way, it’s the legal procedure where you and a person (or a representative of let’s say, a company) are in dispute. You both then present your respective arguments against each other before a judge or arbitrator.
It’s not uncommon for disputes to arise in your personal life or your career, or business life. As you can imagine, disputes with families, neighbours, competitors, customers, suppliers, employers and employees are fairly common. And that’s where Litigation steps in. But there are other options…
It’s not all Litigation
When disputes arise, the main legal areas for resolution tend to be:
- Litigation – in the courts of England and Wales
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
In England and Wales Litigation is the more traditional and conventional process of dispute resolution, often involving a ‘pre-action protocol’ prior to the next step involving the courts.
The parties (whether a person or a business) involved in Litigation are called litigants. You, as a litigant, will have the right to support your argument and present evidence of any findings and facts in relation to your dispute and potential case.
In the UK, Civil Litigation process is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules. This means you are bound to follow certain protocols regarding pre-trial behaviour and courtroom procedures.
The pre-action protocols set out the future court proceedings. The protocols are produced to encourage an information exchange between you and the person (or entity e.g. company) as early as possible in the proceedings. This potentially paves the way for a settlement of the dispute and can prevent the case reaching court and racking up legal costs for everyone concerned.
Litigation can either be concluded through successful pre-trial Alternative Dispute Resolution or formal court ruling.
Will I need a Litigation solicitor?
As Litigation is a serious issue and a serious legal process, it is advisable that you take professional legal advice from an experienced litigation solicitor, lawyer or barrister as soon as a dispute and contentious resolution becomes a real possibility.
What will a Litigation solicitor do?
A good Litigation solicitor will:
- Assess your case (the good, the bad and the ugly);
- Research other legal precedents that may indicate and affect the outcome of your dispute;
- Gather evidence and interview any potential witnesses;
- Try to find a suitable expert witness (if required) who will testify about technical issues.
There are particular rules with regard to the appointment of expert witnesses; in less complex cases both parties will have to agree on and share one expert witness.
What’s The Track System?
Since the reform of the English legal system back in 1999, there are three main tracks Litigation cases may follow, depending on where they fall in the criteria:
- The Small Claims Track;
- The Fast Track;
- The Multi-track.
The Small Claims Track
The Small Claims Track covers all ‘small’ claims, where you may seek an award of up to (but no more than) £5,000; £1,000 if you have a personal injury claim. The good news is that if your case is assigned to the Small Claims Track it can be all over and done with quickly, in a relatively informal way.
The Fast Track
If your case is seeking an award up to £15,000 and looks like it could be resolved in a relatively short period of time, then it is likely to be assigned to The Fast Track. If so, there’s a good chance your case will be placed in the County Court, where the majority of The Fast Track claims are handled.
For a court claim where you seek an award of more than £15,000, you will be assigned to The Multi-Track route. However, if your case is less than £15,000 but it involves a lot of evidence, meaning the likelihood of a lengthy trial, then you will also fall within the Multi-Track. Unlike the Small Claims Track, the Multi-Track is very formal and a large number of documents will need to be filed before the trial date. You’ll probably have to dress nicely too.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Under the Civil Procedure Rules the courts and litigants are obliged to co-operate to ensure a smooth, timely and cost-effective resolution of your matter.
There are a handful of different Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques that you can consider. The most common forms of ADR include:
Some ADR procedures are more common in certain professional areas than others, like the construction industry, for instance.
To learn more about ADR click here.
Most large law firms have specialist Litigation and Dispute Resolution departments, while you’ll find a few smaller law firms concentrating solely on Litigation.
We recommend you arrange a face-to-face chat with a lawyer to plan your next steps. Select one who will truly look after you and who you feel will act in your best interests. A good place to start is by asking friends, colleagues and family for personal recommendations.
Settle on a Litigation solicitor who you can feel comfortable with. Tell them your situation and they’ll be able to advise you as to whether you have a strong case. You might have to share personal details with them, so it’s a good idea to be honest and open.
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.