August 2009 - Common myths about business dispute resolution


Business Law Update
August 2009

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from Cousins Business Law

Gary CousinsWelcome to the August issue of the Business Law Update from Cousins Business Law.

This month there’s a scathing view on the potential for recovery of the banking sector from commercial property solicitor, Steve Petty, and invaluable advice for anyone organising an event.

Our feature article dispels some of the commonly held misunderstandings about litigation and how best to resolve business disputes.

I hope you will find information relevant to your business in this month’s issue. We are keen to cover topics of concern to business people so, if you have questions or topics you would like us to cover, email your ideas to


Gary Cousins
0121 778 3212

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Common myths about business dispute resolution

There’s a lot of fear, cynicism and mistrust in business circles about lawyers, litigation and how to achieve effective resolution of business disputes. Getting to know facts from the myths is a good way of giving yourself some confidence in what can be a very unsettling set of circumstances.

In the detailed article on the Cousins Business Law website (Seven myths about litigation and business dispute management) dispute resolution solicitor, Gary Cousins, dispels the following seven myths and provides useful advice for any business owner facing disagreements with suppliers, customers or members of staff:

Myth 1 – If I go to a solicitor for advice on a dispute, it will end up in court
Not true – court proceedings are only one method of resolving business disputes.

Myth 2 – I will have to give evidence in a courtroom
Unlikely – 95% of cases don’t even go to trial.

Myth 3 – It will cost the earth
It can cost a lot but there are ways to minimise costs and spread out payments.

Myth 4 – It will take years
This depends whether the case goes to court and how easily a settlement can be reached.

Myth 5 – Judges don’t understand real life; they won’t understand my case
Judges are pretty smart and can grasp the key facts of a case very quickly.

Myth 6 – Going to court is just a lottery
The better prepared you are, the less the opportunity for leaving things to chance.

Myth 7 – The judge will make my opponent pay for treating me this way
Yes and no. Even if you win, the law isn’t designed specifically to punish the offender.

If you’ve heard or used these reasons for burying your head in the sand about a business dispute, you need to find out the facts by reading - Seven myths about litigation and business dispute management on the Cousins Business Law website.

For detailed advice on any business dispute contact Cousins Business Law on 0845 003 5639 or email us here.


Banking sector doomed to failure?
Steve Petty

In the Cousins Business Law ezine back in May 2008, commercial property solicitor Steve Petty wrote a piece entitled Sprinkling Sugar on the Credit Crunch. Fifteen months on, has the situation improved? Here’s Steve’s view.

At the time of that article, we were being told that the worst was over. I felt then that wasn’t the case and, unfortunately, I remain convinced that the worst in terms of the health of the banking sector is still ahead rather than behind us.

The cause of the near collapse of the banking sector was the lending of billions of pounds to people who had no prospect of being able to make the repayments. Those loans are still on the banks’ books and their value still hasn’t been adequately written down on their balance sheets. The problem, of course, is, if this ‘toxic waste’ as it has come to be known was correctly valued, then it would be apparent to everyone that most of the world’s large financial institutions are insolvent. The crisis of confidence that this would cause is something Governments around the world are desperate to avoid.

They plan to achieve this by pumping in sufficient funds to keep banks afloat. In the US, there is an alphabet soup of schemes to channel ever increasing billions of dollars into the hands of the banks. In the UK, there has been the much publicised ‘Quantitative Easing (QE)’ but has any of it worked?

At last week’s Inflation Report briefing, Mervyn King acknowledged that many of the banks were simply leaving the extra cash they had been given through QE on deposit with the Bank of England rather than lending it out into the wider economy. He at least acknowledges the fact (unlike Alistair Darling) that if banks make billions of pounds of losses from reckless lending, they are hardly likely to increase the amount they lend. In fact, as the amount of bailout cash has spiralled ever higher, the amount banks are lending to businesses has actually fallen.

Karl Denninger on the Market Ticker blog likens this (trying to solve the problem of a debt fuelled asset bubble with increased lending) to trying to cure an alcoholic by giving him a bottle of vodka. The reality is that the only sensible way to solve the current problems is for bad debts to be flushed out of the system; for banks to recapitalise; and for those financial institutions which are insolvent to be wound up.

When you start to see those things actually happen, you will know that we are on the road to recovery. Until then, the world’s governments’ efforts to restore growth through ever increasing amounts of debt are doomed to failure.

In such an environment, what can we do to protect ourselves? We have a number of articles on our website giving practical advice on how to survive in a recession from keeping your business going when the going gets tough to negotiating or re-negotiating a lease. It is now more important than ever to follow best business practice.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.’

In the business context you might say that the businesses that survive a recession keep going for five months longer. At Cousins Business Law we hope that our advice can help you be one of the survivors.

Plain English Legal Advice

How to get a licence for a one-off event

As Britain seems to be heading for an Indian summer this year (well we can hope, can’t we!), many leisure outlets are trying to draw the crowds with one-off events, from Michael Jackson Tribute Nights to open air theatre. Looking through the local paper, there seems to be more events this summer than ever before.

But for event organisers there are some legal hoops to jump through before the Pimms gets mixed or the band booked.

In a detailed article on our website, licensing solicitor Nigel Musgrove provides advice on the specific legal approval you need if you are holding an event which involves licensable activities. Running through the reasons why you MUST have a temporary event licence, how to obtain it and some restrictions you need to be aware of, this article is invaluable if you are a licensed premises owner thinking of, for example, having live bands when you don’t normally or an event organiser responsible for a summer ball serving hot food or alcoholic drinks on premises not licensed for these activities.

Read – How to get a license for a one-off event for more details or call licensing solicitor Nigel Musgrove on 01285 847001 for details of our fixed fee license application service.

Useful Links

SMEs get access to public-sector contracts

Every small business in the UK now has access to thousands of lower-value public-sector contracts on the government’s website as the charge to search the site has now been dropped.

Each year advertises thousands of public sector procurement opportunities worth up to £100,000.

Research help for entrepreneurs and SMEs

The British Library Business & IP Centre are running ‘Essential Market Research’ seminars for entrepreneurs and SMEs. The next day-long seminar is on the 9th September and will cover, amongst other things ‘what do customers really want from a product’ and ‘how much should your products cost.’ The organisers say the event will be of particular value to start-up businesses and those wanting to establish the commercial viability of an idea.

There’s no charge for the seminar which will be held at the British Library in London.

Litigation Madness

What’s in a name?

Cousins Business Law advise on many disputes between businesses over names, but we thought that one in the news recently really took the biscuit, or should we say ‘sandwich’.

It is said that the sandwich is named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich who, in 1762, ordered his valet to bring him some meat encased in two slices of bread so he could have lunch without interrupting his gambling and without his cards becoming greasy from handling the meat.

But who would have thought that over 200 years later, the present Earl of Sandwich would make a claim over the use of his name?

Neil Corall bought a 7-year-old sandwich takeaway shop in 2005 with the name The Earl of Sandwich. Unknown to him and much more recently, the present Earl, John Montague, opened a fast food sandwich outlet in America called The Earl of Sandwich. When he heard of Mr Corall’s business, he decided to make a claim for Trademark Infringement.

Mr Corall, who had not registered his Trademark, decided not to fight the case. Instead, he has agreed to change the name of his shop and remove his listing from and his MySpace profile.

So the Earl’s gamble seems to have paid off. I wonder what the courts would have made of it had it gone further.

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Cousins Business Law is a member of the Law Society & regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Head Office: Swan House PO Box 11543, Birmingham, B13 0ZL. Tel +44 (0)121 778 3212. Fax: +44(0)121 275 6155