Our experienced Dispute Resolution and Litigation team has helped prevent and resolve thousands of disputes.
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Frequently Asked Questions
While care is taken to ensure the following information is accurate it is only illustrative.
1. What does litigation mean and what does it involve?
Litigation is a process primarily used for the resolution of disputes by taking legal action through court proceedings. There are several High Court trial centres and over 200 County Courts which can determine a wide range of disputes. Certain disputes, for example some employment related disputes may only be determined by an Employment Tribunal. If your dispute concerns an employment issue you should contact our Employment team in the first instance.
For further information on the litigation process please see our Guide to Litigation
2. What is the difference between litigation, arbitration, adjudication and mediation?
Arbitration is a process for the resolution of disputes outside of the Court system through an arbitral body. Determination of the dispute is by an arbitrator who is an impartial referee acting as judge and who is selected and appointed by the parties or by an appointing body. The litigation and arbitration processes share a number of similar features but a key difference between arbitration and litigation is that arbitration is usually carried out in private. For further information please see our Guides to Litigation, Arbitration , Adjudication and Mediation
3. Do I have to become involved in litigation, arbitration, adjudication or mediation?
If you are the aggrieved party seeking to take action then, depending on the nature of the dispute and any prior agreement between the parties, you may have a choice as to which dispute resolution route to take but if you cannot resolve the dispute yourself or with the assistance of legal advisers, then unless you wish to drop your claim the short answer is yes. We will advise you as to which option is most likely to achieve your aims and objectives.
However you cannot generally prevent action being taken against you by way of litigation, Employment Tribunal claims, arbitration (where there is an agreement to arbitrate the dispute in place) or adjudication (where the dispute relates to construction work).
4. What is the "without prejudice" rule and what does it mean?
Without prejudice communications forming part of a genuine attempt to settle a dispute are privileged. This means they cannot be put in as evidence before the Court except in certain special and limited circumstances. The purpose of the rule is to encourage litigants to resolve matters between themselves without risking being embarrassed by an admission. Please see our Guide to the Without Prejudice Rule and Part 36 Offers for further information.
5. What happens if I do get involved - what will it require?
Much will depend on the nature of the dispute and the forum for the resolution of that dispute. We will advise you in detail on a case by case basis. In most cases some form of timetable will be agreed between the parties or will imposed by the court requiring certain steps to be taken within certain time frames leading to a trial or mediation hearing.
6. When is the best time to consult you in respect of a dispute?
The short answer is at the earliest possible opportunity after it becomes apparent that there is a matter which is or is likely to become a dispute. The earlier advice is sought the sooner a party can be advised of their strict legal rights and position and take a commercial decision based upon this advice and the options open to them. The earlier in the dispute the more options there may be and it is often possible to head off disputes altogether if advice is taken early. Even if this is not possible, it is usually easier to resolve issues satisfactory if they are addressed early, often before any significant loss has been sustained by either party to the dispute and the parties' positions have become entrenched. Steps to mitigate any potential loss can also be put in place at an early stage where necessary. Delay may prejudice your position and you may inadvertently take steps which damage your position.
A clear strategy can be determined in respect of any dispute which it can be foreseen is not or is not likely to be resolved without some form of dispute resolution being undertaken or some form of extended negotiation. There is more chance of a successful outcome the sooner the problem is addressed and addressing the dispute sooner rather than later often results in saving costs.
7. What will I need to provide to you in order to enable you to advise me?
In an ideal world, and if time permits, all documents relevant to the dispute, a written brief providing a detailed chronology of relevant events and facts and identifying areas of concern/complaint and setting out the advice you consider you required. Your objectives in respect of the dispute and any other matters for consideration are highly relevant and informing us as to the basis for our tactical advice. Full contact details are important together with an indication of urgency and any relevant deadlines.
We can, of course, advise as a matter of urgency in cases which require this. This can be by way of preliminary telephone advice followed up by an early meeting. Where time does permit, the more that is produced in advance, the clearer the advice can be and often the cheaper it is to advise.
8. What will it cost for me to obtain your legal advice?
We usually charge on the basis of the seniority of the individuals concerned and the hours involved. We can advise you of our current rates upon request. We will provide you with an estimate for our initial advice and estimates of costs thereafter. It is often difficult to estimate the total cost at the outset of any matter as there are too many unknowns. However, we will seek to keep you advised at all times of our estimates and will provide clear advice regarding what you may expect to receive (if anything) from the other party to the dispute by way of costs.
9. What exactly does "no win no fee" mean?
Just what it says. A “No win no fee” agreement generally means a Conditional Fee Agreement (“CFA”). These are agreements between a client and their legal representative which usually mean that the client pays nothing if they lose the case, but pay their legal representative's fees in full if they win, as well as an additional amount on top called an "uplift" or success fee.
Ordinarily, if the case is won the Court will order the loser to pay the winner's costs
This means litigants funding their case under a CFA usually take out insurance to cover their opponent's costs in case they lose. If they do lose the insurance company will pay the opponent's costs. If the case is won the insurance premium will usually be recoverable from the losing party.
For commercial reasons we are only able to run a very limited number of CFAs at any one time. We are happy to discuss funding on a case to case basis.
10. Is there anywhere I can obtain free advice?
There are many sources of free legal advice ranging from your local Citizens Advice Bureau to various pro bono groups. The Court rules and other useful information is available on the internet. Some links which may be of use are
11. Who do I contact?
In the first instance, please contact one of the Dispute Resolution Partners, Robert Oakley, Malcolm Robson or Leticia Jennings, but in their absence, please ask for one of the assistants within the Dispute Resolution Group. Any partner within the firm will also be able to assist you by putting you in contact with the appropriate person.
You can also contact us at 10 Queen Street Place, London, EC4R 1BE.
T: +44(0)20 7551 7777
F: +44(0)20 7551 7800