Our commercial litigation solicitors advise businesses on all aspects of dispute resolution, from pre-action correspondence through to all parts of the litigation process, including enforcement and alternative dispute resolution.
If you have been unable to resolve your dispute, then you may have no other alternative but to commence formal court proceedings in order to resolve matters. Alternatively, you may have received correspondence or court papers from a third party (or their solicitors) indicating that court proceedings have been issued or are likely. In either case, our commercial litigation lawyers can assist you with many different stages of a commercial litigation dispute, some of which we have set out below.
The stages of commercial litigation disputes that we advise on include:
Before a claim is formally commenced in court, the parties are encouraged to send letters before claim, setting out the nature of the claim and the remedy sought. The Court rules provide that parties should exchange as much information as possible prior to the issue of formal proceedings to see if a dispute can be resolved without the need for a party to formally issue a court claim. If a party does not follow these pre-action rules, they can be later penalised in relation to any costs they may seek to recover as part of their claim.
At Bindmans, we can help businesses collate their evidence and put together their strongest case possible and draft pre-action letters to opponents. We can also advise clients on the correct pre-action protocols that need to be followed for their particular dispute.
Issuing and defending claims
If you cannot resolve your dispute by way of pre-action correspondence, then one of the parties may decide to issue a claim, so that it can be determined by a court. The Court rules set out various strict time limits that parties must comply with in order to progress their claim. If you miss a deadline, you could risk having your claim struck out or a judgment entered against you. At Bindmans, we can guide you through each stage of the court process and confirm when important deadlines need to be met.
Depending on the value of your claim or the claim issued against you, if the claim becomes defended, it is likely to be allocated to one of three ‘tracks’ as set out below. Each track has its own rules and own costs consequences if you are either successful or unsuccessful in your claim. Our commercial litigation lawyers we can advise you of the rules which will apply to your claim:
- Small claims track – up to £10,000
- Fast track – Between £10,000 and £25,000
- Multi-track – Above £25,000
The Small claims track
If your dispute involves a sum of less than £10,000, then if proceedings are issued against you or you issue your own claim, then it is likely to be allocated to the small claims track. Legal costs, save for fixed costs (such as the court issue fee), are not usually recoverable in small claims track matters, so a business would not be able to recover their legal costs from their opponent, even if they win. As such, it may not be cost-effective for a business to employ solicitors to pursue small claims on their behalf, unless they wish to pursue the claim out of principle. We can advise you with any small claims that you may have and the most cost-effective approach to securing the best outcome for your business.
Fast track claims
Fast track claims are those claims with a value of between £10,000 and £25,000 where the trial of the claim can be dealt with in one day. Matters are usually heard at the county court. Although the successful party would normally be entitled to recover his legal costs from his opponent, in the fast track, trial costs are limited and therefore a party needs to consider whether pursuing a court claim remains the most cost-effective way of resolving the dispute. Our commercial litigation lawyers have dealt with many fast track claims and will be able to advise you in relation to the timeframes and costs limits involved.
Any claim which does not come under the small claims or fast track is allocated to the multi-track. These tend to be higher value, more complex disputes and will take place in the county court or High Court, depending on the complexity and amounts involved. As with the other two tracks, there are specific court rules which apply to multi-track claims, including rules dealing with the recovery of legal costs for a successful party. Bindmans’ commercial litigation specialists can advise on all aspects of multi-track claims.
Once your claim has been allocated to a track the court will set case management directions. This will either be done by the court automatically, agreed between the parties or determined by the court at a separate hearing. These directions essentially form a timetable of how the case will progress and will deal with issues such as disclosure, witness evidence, expert evidence and trial.
As part of the litigation process, each party will be obliged to provide relevant documents to the other side under a process known as disclosure. There are many specific rules relating to disclosure and failure to comply with these rules can lead to various sanctions against a party, including, in the strictest of circumstances, a party’s claim or defence being struck out. Generally, parties are obliged to provide documents (including electronic documents) which not only help their own case, but also those which may help their opponent’s case and hinder their own.
If your claim is unable to be settled and proceeds to a trial, then representatives of both parties will be asked to provide witness statements in advance of the trial, upon which they will be questioned by the other side (and judge) at court. We can assist with the preparation of witness evidence, advising clients of what information should be contained in a statement and which information should be left for your legal representative to submit on your behalf at the trial. We can also assist with collating any documents that need to accompany your witness evidence.
If your matter proceeds to a court hearing, we can arrange for a barrister to attend that hearing on your behalf. We will also arrange for you to meet with the barrister in advance of any hearings, so that you can raise any matters you wish with them and assist them with their preparation in order that they can put forward your best position to the judge at the trial. Bindmans have relationships with many different sets of barristers’ chambers and will try and instruct the most suitable barrister for your claim, depending on the type of claim and your budget.
Costs and litigation funding
Litigation can be a time-consuming and sometimes expensive process. We aim to advise you of the potential costs from the outset and through each stage of the litigation process. Whilst you may be able to recover some of these legal costs if your claim is successful, in the event that you lose your claim, you may be ordered to pay your opponent’s legal costs.
At Bindmans, we can advise you in relation to different funding options, including obtaining legal expenses insurance to cover your opponents’ costs if you lose. Depending on the type and value of your claim, we may also be able to act for you on a conditional fee arrangement, or “no win, no fee” arrangement.
Our team of experts have produced Dispute Resolution Guidance Documents, designed to provide individuals and businesses with information on a range of legal matters and procedures that they might find themselves facing. To view the full range of Guidance Documents available, visit our web page here.