To understand the work that a business litigation solicitor carries out, it is necessary to appreciate what is meant by litigation which is the process of a claim being made to a court in which a party seeks a legal resolution to a dispute. The claimant will seek a legal judgement in his or her favour related to an act committed by a second party, whether it was perceived to infringe on the claimant’s legal rights, or it was perceived to violate laws to the claimant’s detriment. If the claimant is successful, a judge can issue a court order so that the claimant’s rights are upheld, or so that damages are awarded, or so that another penalty or injunction is placed on the party found guilty of breaking the law.
Litigation occurs in three broad spheres. 'Private' refers to dispute resolution between private individuals and interests; 'public law' refers to dispute resolution involving the government and other parties; and a business litigation solicitor carries out dispute resolution involving commercial organisations.
This type of legal action can firstly concern a variety of disputes between one commercial enterprise and another. Such disputes may involve financial transactions – such as disputed payments, tax disputes, or conflicts with banks or other creditors. It can involve taking debtors to court for non-recovery of loans. It may involve breach of contract: warranty claims, for instance, or promises involving the supply of goods. Insurance-related claims, such as indemnity cases, may also be taken to court, where one firm feels an insurance firm has not honoured an agreement. Another important area of law concerns intellectual property rights, and the legal obligation of commercial enterprises to honour the intellectual property of their competitors.
A business litigation solicitor does not exclusively act in disputes between businesses, but can also deal with disputes between individuals within a firm. Shareholders who feel aggrieved by dividend policies that they perceive to be unfair or prejudiced, for example, or by fraudulent or negligent directors or other officers, may also have an incentive to engage in legal action. So might dissatisfied parties in a partnership agreement or a joint venture who perceive the other party or parties involved to have breached contract.
Other legal action can involve disputes between firms and non-commercial parties. Governments or private organisations may take firms to court if they have breached regulations involving the environment, for instance. Disputes between commercial organisations and the government over tax might similarly be brought to court. Recent examples include a British importer taking H.M. Commissioners for Customs and Excise to court over disputes related to levels of duty liability.
International arbitration may concern the representation of one firm against another from overseas, where there is a need for the specification of the particular form of law applying. Or it may involve high profile and difficult cases of white-collar crime, such as insider dealing, in which proof of illegality may not be easily obtained.