Business and commercial law generally falls into two broad categories: “Corporate” and “Litigation.” Corporate law generally refers to the drafting and negotiation of various contracts. Litigation is the resolution of business disputes, whether through the court system or through alternative dispute resolution. As a litigator at a law firm specializing in business law and contracts, I have the opportunity to work on both Corporate and Litigation projects.
It is always interesting to me to observe the differing dynamics between the parties in Corporate versus Litigation matters. In Corporate matters, I inevitably run into some roadblocks over particular deal terms or legal provisions. But at the end of the day, both sides are working together to get the deal done. Minor disagreements notwithstanding, the parties the parties involved are typically cordial with each other, often even downright friendly. It is this initial optimism that sometimes leads people to cut corners with respect to the agreements. After all, if everyone is on the same page why should they pay us lawyers to complicate things?
Litigation is a different story. By the time a litigation matter hits my desk, the parties have already reached a fundamental disagreement that they cannot resolve on their own. The rosy glow accompanying the beginnings of the business relationship is replaced with the resentment of unmet expectations. Time and again I have had Litigation clients tell me that, while the parties didn’t put a particular term in writing, “everyone knew what the deal was.” In my experience, the other side is telling their attorney the exact same thing. At that point it falls to a judge or jury to decide what the deal was.
This is why it is critically important that individuals and business looking to enter into any new business relationship should always seek good corporate counsel regarding the terms of the deal. We are specifically trained to anticipate and identify potential issues, help the parties work through them and put everything clearly in writing. Because once a dispute has arisen, it is already too late.
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