Settling or compromising legal disputes-the benefits

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One of the most memorable characters in any of the novels of Charles Dickens is Uriah Heep.

He features in the 1850 novel, “David Copperfield” by Dickens, and is the personification of unctuousness, sycophancy, insincerity, and false humility.

He was brought up, he says, to be “ever so ‘umble”.

He writhes his way into the trust of his solicitor employer, Mr Wakefield.

He then takes advantage of Mr Wakefield’s drinking problem and persuades Mr Wakefield to make him a partner in the law firm, even though he is only a lowly law clerk.

When he is found out and confronted, however, his mother quickly sees what needs to be done.

“Make terms, Uri; make terms” is her sound advice to him.

In other words, cut a deal. Compromise, settle, if it is an option.

This is not always the best advice in a legal dispute, regardless of whether the dispute is about land, property, personal injury, employment, divorce, or whatever.

But settling or compromising legal proceedings should never be ruled out.

For settling and “making terms” as Mrs Heep recognised, gives you certainty and may be the best, most cost-effective way to resolve a dispute.

I encounter clients on a regular basis who are involved in disputes and whose principles are offended by whatever issues have arisen between the parties. Sometimes they will be amenable to a deal; often they will react against it in the first instance and tell me, “it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle”.

It’s rarely about the principle, quite frankly.

But most parties will soon recognise the benefit of settling the dispute.

And the two biggest factors will be

  1. Certainty of outcome
  2. Certainty as to costs

Each of these benefits is worth a lot in its own right.

Put the two together, and throw in the casting away of pressure and anxiety associated with legal proceedings and the underlying conflict and settling and agreeing terms of a deal is often quickly seen by both parties as the best option.

Conclusion

Never rule out the possibility of “doing a deal”. Not because it is weak or cowardly but because it may just be the smartest option for you.

Remember Uria Heep’s mother: “make terms, Uri”. Not bad advice at all.