GavelGoing to court has become the first response to dispute because the purpose of court is commonly misunderstood. As a result, business owners often go to court expecting an outcome that court is not designed to produce. Most people see court as a place to tell their story and where a judge will order the other person give them what they deserve. That is not what court was designed to do.

Court is designed to be your last resort

Court was never designed to be the first response to settling a dispute. The court assumes you made every effort to work out a satisfying outcome yourself prior to filing your lawsuit. Disputing parties are expected to talk to one another, making a good faith effort to work out a resolution prior to going to court. However, most disputing parties have neither the skills nor the knowledge about how conflict works to make a good faith effort. Without skill or knowledge, failure inevitably leads parties to court.

The primary goal of court is to end the conflict

As the last resort, the primary goal of court is to end the dispute. Have no doubt whatsoever, at the end of your court hearing, the dispute will be over; a judgment will be rendered; a ruling will be made. Let me explain why this is the goal. Two people are stuck in an ongoing dispute. They are in court because they could not find a way to end it themselves. It is unhealthy for both the community and these individuals to remain stuck in dispute. When all else fails, the court will end the dispute for them.

In other words, when you file a lawsuit, when you stand in front of a judge, you are saying, we cannot find a constructive way out of this dispute. We need help. The judge, hearing this, simply says, “I will end this dispute for you.” The only thing that needs to happen in court is for a decision to be made. It does not even have to be a “good” decision. In fact, most people who go to court feel that the judge’s decision was unfair. I once heard a judge say, “If both parties are unhappy with my ruling, I’ve come pretty close to finding the middle.”

A Better First Response Alternative

Mediation is the better first response alternative for business owners. It is faster than court, it is cheaper than court, and outcomes are often better than what court can do.   The court expects you to try and resolve your disputes yourself. However, you may not have the benefit of knowing exactly how conflict works and how to apply that knowledge to resolving disputes. When you have a business dispute, internal or external, don’t go to court. Instead hire a mediator who is a conflict specialist to help you find a resolution that best serves you and your business goals.

Author: Dr. Rick Voyles

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