6 business lessons from my day in court [blog]

Posted by James Price | JPAbusiness on 01-Aug-2016 05:30:00


I recently spent the day in a local courthouse as a witness in a civil court contractual dispute between one of my clients and a service provider

Turns out my client won the case, but I don’t think any of us enjoyed the experience. Going to court can be a costly and sobering exercise. The biggest revelation came at the outset of the day when the judge used his opening remarks to assure both sides that one of us would lose, and urged us to go away and try to reach a settlement rather than continue the proceedings.

(Essentially the numbers were such that, with the original claim invoked and each party’s costs, neither stood to really win if it came down to dollars alone!)

We did as advised and spent an hour or so trying to reach agreement, to no avail. So back we went to spend most of the remainder of the day in the courtroom arguing the case.

The process underlined for me a number of critical lessons relevant to any business owner, large or small: 

6 critical lessons for business owners (from my day in court): 

1. Make sure contracts are clear and unambiguous 

Make sure any contract or agreement you enter into for provision of services for your business or a project is clear, unambiguous and defined as to:

  • scope of works and expectations
  • measurement of performance to the contract
  • claims and payment basis
  • payment processes and associated dispute processes.

2. Document communications 

Always document communications with service providers in a timely manner, where there is a difference or dispute relating to a claim or the contract.

3. Document offers to settle 

If you make an offer to settle a dispute before you go to court, make sure it is documented to the other party in writing.

4. Try to settle out of court 

Be well satisfied that you can answer this question: Have I done everything reasonably possible to try and mediate and settle the matter out of court?

5. Get good legal advice 

Before considering whether to fight a claim, make sure you get good, practical and pragmatic legal advice. Be clear about:

  • the probability of success
  • what it will cost you to achieve the outcome
  • what proportion of those costs can be claimed against the other side
  • the worst-case outcome for you if you lose.

6. Focus on the facts 

They matter most in court!


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JAMES PRICE | JPAbusinessJames Price has over 30 years' experience in providing strategic, commercial and financial advice to Australian and international business clients. James' blogs provide business advice for aspiring and current small to mid-sized business owners, operators and managers.


Topics: Advice, Legal, contracts, Suppliers

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is general in nature and should not be taken as personal, professional advice. Readers should make their own inquiries and obtain independent, professional advice before making any decisions, taking any action or relying on any information in this blog. 
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