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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: The Legal Corner: How to Avoid Legal Disputes

February 9, 2010

Many people end up in legal disputes because of disagreements or misunderstandings that they have with another party that could have been avoided. These disputes may be between homeowner-contractor, neighbor-neighbor, business-independent contractor, or any other relationship wherein a disagreement may end up in court. Typically the disputes arise because the parties disagree as to what was included in their original agreement (usually an oral or a poorly worded written contract). Typically, one party contends that the other party has failed to live up to the contract. Many of these conflicts could easily be avoided.
The following are suggestions to help avoid disputes and litigation:
(1) Have a Written Contract: It is surprising how many people enter into costly and complex oral agreements with very little documentation to back up what either side expects of the other. This is the number one area that causes legal disputes. How do you avoid this? Have a carefully crafted contract drawn up that specifies each party’s expectation and the costs associated with each portion of the contract. The parties should meet and agree on all provisions, and both parties should sign the document and keep a copy. The safest way to draft a contract is with an attorney’s help (or at least having an attorney review any contract that you may sign). However, there are also many online resources which can help parties draft a reasonably good contract.
(2) Communicate Early and Often: If either party has any concerns (or even if they do not), it is a very good practice to speak or meet often to discuss any issues. This allows both sides to discuss any concerns early in the process before substantial time and money has been expended. If the parties agree to additional work/additional costs outside of the original contract, they should write an addendum to the contract and, again, both parties should sign and keep a copy of it.
(3) Take Pictures: If the contracted for work involves construction or repairs, it is important for there to be a record of work. Either or both parties should take pictures while the work is in progress. This will help ensure that the contract is complied with and, if there are any disputes, pictures will go a long way toward resolving them.
(4) Try to Resolve Disputes Early: Inevitably, no matter how careful people are, disputes may arise. If they do arise, you should discuss the issue with the other side rationally. Personality conflicts are the number one reason that many issues go to court. Try to be calm when talking about your concerns and try to rectify them informally before they mushroom into something more.
(5) Use Common Sense: If, when you meet someone, he or she gives you a bad feeling, be very cautious about entering into an agreement with that person. I have had many clients come to see me with a legal dispute based on a year or more relationship with another person. Many times, the client tells me that they had a bad feeling about the person from the start. You should listen to that internal voice. Whether it is simply a personality disconnect or something more serious, those feelings almost always have a valid basis to them.
In conclusion, people can avoid many costly legal disputes by taking some simple steps early to plan for the possibility of a dispute. Careful planning and common sense go a long way toward saving people from stressful and costly legal disputes.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay