As the unprecedented global pandemic has disrupted businesses and lives worldwide, prevention may be the best legal as well as medical remedy. The onslaught of pandemic-related litigation has already begun with more looming on the horizon, and they run the gamut from consumer debt collection, employment, force majeure, insurance coverage, business disruption, supply chain, manufacturing, construction and myriad other disputes.
The disputes expand beyond the courthouse and into our streets as police brutality, racial disparity, destructive rioting and civil unrest also plague us. As we try our best to resolve these conflicts fairly, efficiently and cost-effectively in order to return to business quickly, what can we learn from them to prevent their return?
Proactive Advance Planning
Good businesses know how to control costs, quality, productivity and safety. But what steps do businesses take to prevent disputes and all their attendant costs, like business disruption, legal fees, discovery costs, expert fees, time off mission and damaged relationships? With careful advance structural, contractual and strategic planning, businesses and communities can prevent dispute escalation.
1. Understand the dispute cycle.
Disputes typically start with a minor issue or concern. The minor issue develops into a problem, which creates a difference of opinion. The difference of opinion damages the relationship and escalates into a dispute. The dispute solidifies position-taking and blossoms into a full-blown legal conflict necessitating legal action.
2. Break the cycle earlier.
Classically, counsel, neutrals, managers, executives and other decision-makers jump in to fix the dispute at the end of this cycle — when legal action has already begun. Instead of figuring out how best to resolve a conflict after it occurs, business leaders are now starting to invest in measures explicitly designed to break the dispute cycle earlier and to de-escalate them as they form.