Anyone involved in business will know that their projects or plans can be affected (positively and negatively) by strategy just as much as by anything else.

No matter how good your product is, you’ll never be successful if you don’t have a good marketing strategy. Those of you old enough to remember the start of home use video recorders may recall the battle between Sony and Betamax. The very fact that the younger members of you are probably asking “who or what is Betamax” speaks volumes, but I understand (because I’m far too young to have been around when it happened!) that the two were rivals, and although it was widely accepted that Betamax was the better product, Sony had the better marketing strategy, so that it prevailed, and Betamax was consigned to the history books as an example of how just because you are the best, doesn’t mean you’ll win the race.

Law, of course, is no different. You can have the best case going, but if you don’t present it to the court in the right way, you can still lose. If the Judge doesn’t hear from the right witnesses, or see the right documents, s/he can still reach the wrong conclusion.

You can also mess up your case by having the wrong strategy. For example, you might want to slow things down, because you need time to get funds or documents ready, or you’re hoping that the other side will run out of time, money, patience and be more willing to settle. Whilst that is not a terrible strategy, it still needs to be exercised carefully. If you stall too much, the Court will eventually get fed up and sanction you.

In a recent case, the Defendant (who was a solicitor but was being pursued in his personal capacity) changed legal representatives FOUR times in six months. Each time the change happened just before a pivotal moment, and the Defendant used this as grounds for an adjournment. Initially the court was sympathetic – both sides have the right to good legal advice, and if someone needs more time to get that advice, so be it. However, by the fourth time the Court was losing its sense of humour, and not only refused to allow more time, it sanctioned the Defendant personally with a costs order. The stalling tactic has cost him over £10k which I doubt he’d factored in to his strategy.

Obviously no one can ever tell you for certain what strategy will or won’t work. I have little doubt that the guys at Betamax didn’t sit around saying, well we know that Sony are going to beat us, but let’s give it a shot anyway. They simply underestimated the value of a good marketing strategy. In the same way, no one can tell you for certain what stalling strategies will or won’t work in a legal context. Having said that, even the most inexperienced in law can see that a fourth change of lawyers in such a short space of time was taking an unnecessary risk. Not only was it unlikely that the Court was going to be sympathetic, but if I’d been the solicitor approached to take over from three previous legal advisers (two of whom were well known and respected firms), I would probably have declined, meaning that if this is a strategy you employ, you’re likely to find it hard to get someone to take you on.

So whatever strategy you employ, whether in business or in law, make sure you’ve considered all the downsides and risks, and factored those in before you commit yourself to something that could cost you more than you were bargaining on!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Strategically sound.