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Ounce of Prevention vs. Pound of Cure

Although the source of the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is subject to debate, its implication in the business dispute context is well known.  Examples of “cure” situations (oftentimes lawsuits) that could have been avoided with a little prevention abound:

– Companies regularly follow the ephemeral prospect of a big “deal” only to learn that their purported business “partner” was selling hope rather than reality and is unable to perform, leaving the company with big problems;

– Individual entrepreneurs jump into business together on the basis of a great idea only to learn that their respective business philosophies are incompatible, and they end up stuck in a business that cannot move forward because each partner blocks the other; or

– Business partners plan for how to share the great success and profit they envision, but do not adequately plan for the more common eventuality that their business fails to thrive.

In each of these and many other similar scenarios, lawsuits and hard-fought legal battles are common.

While careful planning that avoids such disputes is the best, and cheapest, course of action, anyone faced with such a dispute should know that, even in the absence of such planning, all is not lost.  Even without ideal planning on the front end, individuals and companies often can avoid lengthy, costly, and sometimes destructive lawsuits by carefully and objectively evaluating at the outset of a dispute their claims, the potential and likely outcomes, and the likely costs and risks associated with pursuing preferred outcomes.  Too often, individuals and businesses launch into lawsuits out of anger and frustration, and without adequate evaluation.  Such actions (1) increase the cost and disruption associated with the resolution of business disputes; and, (2) decrease the likelihood of achieving a good, or at least acceptable, resolution.

As you head in to this new, lucky “13” year, take the time to think about your business plans, and to consider whether you have invested an appropriate ounce of prevention, or whether you are setting yourself up to need a pound of cure.  If you are faced with a dispute, carefully consider whether evaluation and planning on the front end of the dispute resolution process can avoid cost, disruption, and dissatisfaction that you might otherwise experience.

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