Disputes between people or businesses have a life cycle. When a client asks our help in resolving a conflict, we always hope that it is early in the life cycle. We hope it is before a lawsuit has been filed, before the parties have terminated all their business relations, or ceased having civil communications. Earlier there are many more choices to resolve a problem at a lower cost with less collateral damage, fewer complications. While there is still time to cure your tiny default under a commercial lease is the time to get legal advice. While there is still time to call a special board meeting before your corporation takes unauthorized action is the time to have a lawyer read your corporate by-laws.
But how do you decide when to get a lawyer’s advice in the middle of a dispute? It is natural when you have a serious difference in expectations of how a situation is going to be handled, to try to talk it out or clear the air with a frank discussion. But if after that you do not feel the situation improving and it concerns a significant business relationship or property interest, this may be the very best time to consult a lawyer. Why? Because (a) you likely have many more choices at this point than you realize and (b) you can avoid actions that make the situation worse.
If you already have a lawyer who knows you or your business, this is a good place to start. If not you should look for a lawyer or a firm that appears to focus on disputes or lawsuits like the subject matter of your difficulty. Explain to the lawyer what has led up to the disagreement and ask for a next step of how it might be worked out. You may find a specific action that the lawyer suggests to send a letter, email or notice that clarifies the problem and the choice of solutions. This may be something that the lawyer will ghost write for you that keeps your legal consultation confidential as you have a right to do. Oftentimes knowledge that another party has obtained legal advice inflames a situation. If your lawyer’s suggested steps lead to a solution or compromise, he or she can help you write up what was decided so that you have a record if the situation comes up again.
Looking at a dispute from your viewpoint but with objectivity, your lawyer can also help you avoid making things worse. You may need to avoid admitting certain facts that might damage your position. You may need to not say certain things to the other party or to third parties about the dispute that could give rise to claims against you. These words or actions once said or done cannot be undone and may worsen your situation.
So when a situation begins to feel out of control, you can consult a lawyer who can give you an objective view of your best options before you pass them by. If you trust your instinct to get this help before it is too late, the result will most likely be to your benefit. At the least you will get an objective view from someone absolutely in your corner. At the most you will learn legal options that may help you solve your problem.