Many people think that the main function of a business litigation lawyer is to try your case in front of a judge and jury. Although that is one of the final steps in the process, it is far from the only thing a business litigation lawyer does. A business litigation lawyer also largely shapes how you get to the point of trial or whether you can avoid it altogether.
Your business litigation attorney is both a counselor and an advocate, helping you resolve your dispute most effectively. To understand why you need a business litigation lawyer as soon as possible, you need to understand the functions that they perform.
You Need to Hire a Business Litigation Attorney if You Are in a Dispute
The best time to hire a business litigation attorney is at the very outset of the dispute resolution process. You may even want to consider having an ongoing relationship with a business litigation lawyer in case something goes wrong. This way, your attorney both knows your circumstances and can easily answer your question when you have it. If you do not have a business litigation lawyer, you need to get one far in advance of a trial.
Your lawyer will begin to provide value as soon as you engage them. If you find yourself in a disagreement with another party, you need to think ahead about how things may play out in litigation. You must also understand the legal risks and benefits of any course of action in the dispute process.
Your contract may allow you to take certain actions upon the occurrence of another event (such as terminating a contract for default). Still, you need to be sure you are on solid legal ground before exercising that drastic remedy. In addition, you also need compelling grounds for anticipatory repudiation of a contract.
Your Attorney Will Help You Assess the Strength of Your Case and the Path Forward
A business litigation lawyer will review your contract and legal situation to help you determine the most practical steps forward. Legal strategy plays a role in everything you do when you are involved in a dispute. Ultimately, you are trying to put yourself in the best legal position possible.
Your attorney can also communicate on your behalf with the other party. Business disputes can be emotional. From your standpoint, you may rightly feel a large amount of anger, stress, and panic about the situation. There may be a lengthy history between you and the other party, or the situation can be a very bitter one. Either way, it may not be best for you to communicate or speak with the other party.
Your Attorney Will Communicate With the Other Party to the Dispute
When your lawyer addresses the other party (or their attorney, because a lawyer cannot directly deal with someone who a lawyer represents), it can help the overall dispute process.
Speaking through an attorney can:
- Show the other party that you mean business, and they cannot freely disregard your legal rights
- Help take some of the emotion out of the situation
- Make communication more direct and purposeful
The dispute process can become an exchange of legal letters, which may not be a bad thing. Hopefully, the other side also has a lawyer who can persuade them to help diffuse the conflict or move toward a resolution.
A Successful Litigation Result May Not Involve Court at All
A business litigation lawyer can actually help you avoid litigation entirely. Much often happens between the start of a dispute and a lawsuit. The parties may have made at least one attempt to resolve their differences before they go to court.
When your lawyer communicates your position to the other side, they can clarify your thoughts. At the same time, your attorney will hear and listen to the other side and inform you how they see the situation. This dialogue can lead to increased communication that might lead to a resolution of your case. Your attorney can help you think of a creative or commonsense solution to end the dispute short of a trial.
You May Resolve Your Dispute Through Alternatives to Litigation
Your attorney can even advise you to use alternative dispute resolution methods to obtain the best result. One way that parties commonly solve disagreements is through mediation. A trained mediator can help the parties talk to each other more effectively. The mediator can help find common points of agreement or move the parties toward a resolution.
If negotiations with the other side are fruitful, you might reach a favorable settlement. You do not need an actual lawsuit to settle a dispute. You can execute a contract or a modification to an existing contract. Your attorney can draft the document or review what the other side proposes.
A lawyer can help you arbitrate your case if that is the most effective way to get a resolution or if the terms of your contract require it. Arbitration is a legal process where an arbitrator can issue a binding decision about one or more issues of your case. It can be quicker, less emotional, and more cost-effective than a lawsuit.
An Attorney Can Help You Prepare Strategically for Your Case
If you need to go to court, your business litigation attorney will be critical to the success of your case. One of their major tasks is to prepare you for the litigation process, whether you are the one filing the lawsuit or not. You do not just simply go to court one day to begin the legal process. If you file a complaint, your lawyer has devoted extensive time to learning about and investigating your case.
In addition, you need to prepare from a practical perspective before litigation begins, including:
- Understanding the benefits and risks that litigation can have for your business
- Knowing any public relations challenges that you may face and how to deal with them
- Knowing how you will keep running your business when you are dealing with the litigation process
- Taking steps to protect yourself in the interim before the case resolves
Your attorney will advise you about all of these from a legal perspective. While your lawyer is not a business counselor, they can help point out some things you will need to consider during the legal process.
The Detailed and Time Consuming Technical Process of the Lawsuit
In addition, litigation can involve massive document production from each party, which you need to consider and address at the outset of the case. You may not have a lot of time to respond to requests that involve thousands (or even millions) of documents. Your lawyer can help with an infrastructure that serves you well while a lawsuit is pending. Being disorganized is one of the worst things you can do during a trial; your lawyer can help you avoid that.
If you have been served with a complaint at the start of the lawsuit, your lawyer will help you decide how to respond. You must file an answer with the court within 30 days of being served with the complaint (if you do not seek an extension). Your lawyer will draft an effective answer.
In addition, you must also decide whether to include in your response:
- Affirmative defenses to the case, such as pleading the statute of limitations - you must plead these at the outset in your answer.
- A counterclaim that launches your own lawsuit against the party that has filed first - there is nothing that says that the court cannot also hear your claims, and you have to only be on the defensive.
Your attorney will quickly advise you on the most effective steps to take.
The Litigation Process Can Take Time
Many things happen in litigation before the trial. Going in front of a judge and jury is actually the culmination of a long process. What happens in the interim can determine the success of your case. Your lawyer is involved at each step of the way, helping you guide strategy and communicating with the court and the other party’s lawyer.
Perhaps the most critical function your attorney will perform during litigation is handling discovery. The case that each party builds in discovery will dictate the ultimate strength of their legal position. Discovery involves strategy and plenty of it. You need to make the most effective requests possible to lead to the relevant evidence necessary to make your case and assess the other side’s case. At the same time, you may also need to respond to discovery requests that can be irrelevant to the case or overly burdensome.
Why You Need an Attorney in the Discovery Phase of Your Case
Your attorney will deal with discovery, sending requests to the other party, and sufficiently responding to other parties’ requests. They may even need to go to the judge (or respond to filings from the other side) when there are discovery disputes. In a protracted lawsuit, there will inevitably be one or more disputes that the judge will need to decide.
In addition, your attorney is crucial during the deposition process. A deposition is a key part of discovery, where parties or witnesses must sit and answer questions under oath from a lawyer for up to seven hours. If you are sitting for a deposition, the other party’s lawyer will get to question you. An attorney will defend you in the deposition, objecting when the lawyer asks an improper question. Your lawyer will also have the opportunity to take depositions from the other party and potential witnesses that can yield valuable evidence to get them on the record with testimony.
Business Litigation Often Involves Negotiating a Settlement
Your business lawsuit will often not go to trial, as many parties will usually settle the matter before it reaches the trial. There is too much at stake for both sides to take the risk of a trial. An attorney will negotiate a potential settlement on your behalf during the legal process. Settlement negotiations are often ongoing, even in the most bitter legal process.
Your attorney and the other party may even sit down face to face, or in the presence of a mediator, when the case is pending. Your lawyer can help you reach a deal that settles the matter on the most favorable terms possible. They will give you practical advice about the best you can expect and the risks of your case should it go to trial.
Representing Your Interests in Court
Finally, a business litigation lawyer will argue your case in front of a judge or jury if it goes that far. Your lawyer should have extensive experience in court and know how to most effectively present your case. If your case does go to trial, there are very high stakes involved. Your attorney will develop your strategy and the theory of your case to put your best legal foot forward.
You can see and understand why hiring an attorney at the beginning of the dispute process is crucial. They are perhaps the most critical part of your case. You must take the time to hire the lawyer that is best for you. The question is not whether you need a business litigation lawyer. The question is more about who you should hire and when. You can be certain that the other party has a lawyer, and you cannot afford to be unrepresented at any time.
Never Wait to Consult With a Business Litigation Attorney
The biggest takeaway is that a business litigation lawyer can do much to assist you and your business during a dispute. If you are unsure whether you need to connect with a business litigation law firm in Chicago, you can simply ask for one. A consultation before you need litigation can increase your chances of avoiding a court case altogether. A lawyer can advise you on the necessary steps to resolve your matter in the most favorable way for you and your business.