Conflicts are inevitable in life, and sometimes those conflicts may involve a potential legal remedy. But the more reasoned approach, as seasoned lawyers will tell you, is to find thoughtful and cost-efficient forums to find resolution.

Here are two practical ways to save not only on your lawyer fees, but the much more significant emotional and life-disruption expense of ongoing disputes.

Personal and

neighborhood disputes

We are, indeed, a nation of laws and not of men. But the resolution of neighborhood issues, some more weighty family disagreements, and other personal disputes should rarely start in a court of law.

The law provides remedies that generally resolve a dispute by an award of monetary damages. But any attempt to resolve essentially personal relationship issues with the coin of the realm is rarely satisfactory. It is the coin of the spirit and common sense that come closer to resolving those issues, and no civil court has the ability to award that.

This is why the court system for many disputes should be the venue of last resort, because its ability to resolve these disputes is imperfect at best.

Parties to largely personal disputes should consider using the non-profit Mediation Services of Forsyth, which has a track record of resolving many personal relationship issues (107 Westdale Ave. NW#B, W-S, NC 27101; 336-724-2870). The emotional capital spent is expensive enough, and if you choose to go to court, the additional lawyer costs merely compound your direct and indirect costs. Mediation Services a valuable, cost-efficient alternative.

When litigation Is necessary

If your issues really need to be litigated (contractual and tort claims, for example), virtually all civil court venues require parties to mediate their issues at some point. Mediation saves on lawyer fees and the emotional and other personal costs an actual trial requires. Years ago, I served on a special NCBA task force chaired by our then-Chief Justice which led to mandatory mediation in the state’s main (Superior) courts. Its success has been so helpful to parties that it is now required in virtually all state civil cases.

Sometimes, you have to try your case if the other party is not reasonable at all. But my experience as a lawyer who has tried cases and mediated others is that mediation is still a highly effective way for parties to resolve their issues. Tall talk can fade when parties finally face the objective weaknesses in their case.

Most clients naturally want the toughest lawyer they can have. But being tough also means being smart and fully objective about the best way to achieve a good result. Fighting “all the way to the Supreme Court,” as clients sometimes proclaim, is often not the best path.

If you find yourself in such a mediation, have the good sense to listen to your lawyer and their reasoned determination of your best course. Few of us can calculate the value of emotional and disruptive costs which are never spent because you resolve a matter that you really need to put behind you.

In this high season of faith and hope, let’s hope we learn to resolve as many personal disputes as we can. Don’t give up any principled positions, but don’t confuse principles with ego and old-fashioned pride. If you have the courage to give up such a disruptive personal dispute, or when a true litigation matter is thoughtfully and fairly resolved (parking your initial impulse to “fight to the Supreme Court”), that really will be a good day for you in the court of law and the all-important court of life.

Remember: An informed choice is a smart choice.

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Mike Wells is a partner with Wells Law, PLLC in Winston-Salem. His email address is mike@wellslaw.us and his telephone number is 336-283-8700.

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