Maximizing Efficiency in Dispute Resolution: Help Tell Your Story

Maximizing Efficiency in Dispute ResolutionBy David Mckenzie and Renata Germann

Resolving a dispute – whether through litigation in court, alternate dispute resolution or negotiated settlement – can seem very much like storytelling. This is because your version of events will be presented as the foundation for the legal argument. 

Organizing and preparing your story for presentation in any dispute resolution forum is very important, though it may involve a lot of time and effort. Lawyers understand this and often spend significant time reconstructing what happened in order to best present it in the framework of a legal argument. 

Unfortunately, lawyers are expensive, so if you are dealing with a lawyer, you will likely want to do so in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. Clients who can efficiently work with their lawyers and bring an organized history of events tend to pay less in legal fees than those who provide piecemeal or disorganized information. 

Below are some general tips that we have found to increase efficiencies in cases. 

Prepare a Written Summary  
The traditional but often very inefficient way to provide information to lawyers is to meet and simply recount the problem and what happened. This isn’t to say that meetings are not effective; however, early on the information provided can be jumbled and notes will inevitably fail to record everything. 

It can be a more efficient starting point for a client to type up a detailed chronology describing the history of events. This written chronology can then be jointly worked on with the lawyer so that it captures the history and details of the events relevant to the legal problem. It will also allow the lawyer to efficiently guide the collection and summarization of important information.

We find that clients often just want to tell the “key points” and then “get advice”. Sometimes that works and is all that is needed. However, that approach assumes the client is aware of all legally relevant information, which is often not the case. Legal advice is typically only as reliable and complete as the information it is based on. Efficiently communicating details of the dispute by way of a detailed chronology allows the lawyer to quickly identify the legally relevant information and provide reliable advice. 

Cast of Characters
We have found, particularly in large complex disputes, a summary of the key “players” increases the efficiency of document review. Your lawyer did not live through the project. While you might know who everyone was and their role during a project and can remember who replaced whom, your lawyer doesn’t start out with that knowledge when reviewing documents. 

Collect and Organize Your Project Documents
Documentary evidence is a central feature of most civil cases, including nearly every construction case, and the persons presenting the case must be familiar with relevant documents. Providing your lawyer with a well-organized document collection at the outset can greatly increase the efficiency of document review and reduce legal fees. We recommend that you keep electronic records, save emails and text messages, and organize electronic documents into subfolders with logical relevant names before providing them to your lawyer.

An Accounting
Lawyers are not accountants, yet you would be surprised how much of our time is spent trying to understand how claim amounts are arrived at. What your claim is made up of is an integral part of your story and one a decision-maker has to believe. A spreadsheet showing all invoices, change orders, directives, payments and disputed items, for example, can be an invaluable tool. It is almost always cheaper for you to prepare such a spreadsheet than to pay your lawyer to do so.


In summary, if you can reduce the time your lawyer needs to spend uncovering and understanding the underlying facts of your claim, it will be time well spent by you. 

David Mckenzie and Renata Germann are lawyers with Jenkins Marzban Logan LLP and practise in the area of construction law and commercial litigation.  

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of SICA's Construction Review Magazine. To read the entire magazine click here.

January 03, 2018

All Parties at the Table | SICA CCO Workshop

The SICA CCO Workshop is designed to bring industry partners together to discuss everyday topics that effect everyone. It’s an opportunity to network, gain a better understanding of challenges faced by other parties, and to better understand the impact decisions have on others.
Read More
December 20, 2017

TAX ALERT – Government Simplifies Measures to Rein in Income Sprinkling

On December 13, the federal government released legislation to simplify restrictions on income sprinkling, proposed to go into effect January 1, 2018. These revisions indicate they’ve listened to feedback during the consultation period, by providing more certainty to taxpayers through the introduction of “bright-line” tests to automatically exclude some family members, and allow income sprinkling for those members who make sufficient contributions to the business.
Read More
8F - 2006 Mack Dump Truck.jpg
December 13, 2017

Member Spotlight: Ok Excavating

Adaptability, initiative, and customer service are the keys to longevity for a local commercial and residential excavation business in Kelowna. OK Excavating is celebrating 50 years of business in 2017 and, in those years, has undergone many evolutions.
Read More
7-1 BCCA Trish before.jpg
December 06, 2017

Employee Benefits are Your Secret Weapon when Life Gets Tough!

As a Client Services Associate with BCCA Employee Benefits, my job revolves around helping companies and their employees with their benefits. I know how important my work is, but when I started new jobs in the past, I often wondered whether the premiums were worth it. I am young and healthy, so is it worth the cost? I learned the true value of having employee benefits when, in a moment frozen in my mind, I heard the dreaded “c” word – cancer.
Read More
November 29, 2017

Construction and Cyber Risk: An Overview

A hazard such as a fire has protocols and procedures that are designed to mitigate risks – inspections, suppression systems, and risk management practices. Cyber protection of a business should also employ a rigorous process to develop both a risk prevention and incident response plan. Most cyber insurance applications serve as a catalyst in moving towards this process.
Read More
November 15, 2017

Could Tax Issues Throw Your Business Off Track?

To stay on track, real estate and construction companies should develop a better understanding of where tax issues are likely to complicate or disrupt their business — and develop a plan to mitigate those risks well in advance.
Read More
November 08, 2017

Top Five Reasons for Having an Employee Benefits Plan

One of the biggest investments employers can make is in their employees. And it makes sense to want productive, healthy, and engaged employees. Employees with poor health cannot exert the effort required to be highly productive, and you need engaged employees in order to create innovative solutions.
Read More
August 30, 2017

Obligation of Good Faith in Contracting

The Supreme Court of Canada changed the legal landscape for contracts in the decision of Bhasin v. Hrynew, [2014] SCC 71. This decision created a new common law obligation of good faith that applies to all commercial contracts.
Read More
August 23, 2017

Embracing the Purpose Era

Regardless of the size of your business or the sector you operate in, the purpose movement is shaking up the rules of business and ringing in a new era where business is an active participant in making the world a better place.
Read More
April 05, 2017

Reaching the Millennials | Attracting the right people is in how the story is told

With businesses adjusting to the era of the happy workplace, concepts such as social responsibility, company culture, and employee engagement are common buzz words used around the open-concept, flexible, shared workspace. They are used more so as companies shift their recruiting focus toward the millennials, the largest generation in the workforce today.
Read More
May 09, 2016

SICA's New Website Launches

We are excited to announce that our new website is live! We have been busy working behind the scenes and are so excited for you to utilize all the new features.
Read More
October 15, 2015

Kelowna Yacht Club takes top honors

Kelowna Yacht Club was the Judges’ Choice best overall entry winner in the 7th Annual Southern Interior Construction Association Commercial Building Awards Thursday night at the Coast Capri Hotel.
Read More

Commercial Building Awards - Finalists Announced!

A spectacular assortment of commercial and industrial buildings have been named as finalists for the 8th Annual Southern Interior Construction Association Commercial Building Awards, set for Thursday, Oct. 27 at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Kelowna.
Read More