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Interview: dispute resolution with Emma Allen

Emma Allen discusses the change in disputes and her advice and predictions for what the future may look like.


What has your experience of dispute resolution been over the last 12 months?

The past 12 months has seen a massive change in the type of dispute instruction. I represent both businesses and individuals and considering the Covid 19 impact, instructions from businesses at the outset of the pandemic reduced. However, individual disputes increased.  Fishers were quick to respond to the lockdown situation and I was able to work from home instantly and address individual disputes. I saw an increase in neighbour disputes and I suspect that this is due to individuals spending more time at home and having spare money to address legal disputes. 


As the time of lockdown increased, I saw an increase in instruction with contract disputes and companies/individuals not being able to perform contractual obligations for example the wedding and entertainment industry.


Initially, at the beginning of the pandemic, new enquiries for commercial businesses were down, understandably, due to the uncertainty around Government announcements and the need to cut back costs within the company. However, now that we are moving to some form of normality, commercial instructions are on the rise, particularly to ensure that contractual arrangements are adequate should a similar situation arise in the future.


Employment related disputes have kept me extremely busy due to the unfortunate situation whereby redundancies have become inevitable and together with difficulties surrounding employees being unable to work due to contracting/self-isolating scenarios.  It has certainly been an unprecedented year for employment related issues.


How technology helped you interact with your clients?

Considering the need to adapt to home working, online meetings either using Zoom or Teams have assisted in maintaining visual contact with clients.  During the pandemic, laws were passed to assist with electronic verification and requirements for the need to deliver signed documentation.


In addition to being able to have virtual meetings with clients, I have also been able to market on vast scales in excess of 50 people plus via electronic means, saving travelling time. Having this facility has enabled the legal profession to continue effective training for case law updates and assisting with the evolving temporary Coronavirus Acts implemented within this unprecedented time.


I have also seen a shift with the Court system using Cloud Video Performance, i.e. attending Court hearings remotely. This has come with its benefits and pitfalls.  One of the benefits is that the hearings generally take place; however, in my experience Judges are not up to speed with technology and this has caused delays prior to the hearing starting. This has been beneficial to clients on the basis that charges has decreased to the client with not needed to travel or waiting time for the hearing to start.   


Fishers remain adaptable to new technology and continue to offer telephone, electronic meetings or face to face which provides a choice to our clients.


If individuals or a businesses have a dispute what would your advice be?

Due to the complexity of costs consequences and procedures that must be followed, I would always recommend obtaining legal advice upon the prospects of the dispute in hand prior to taking action.  The initial assessment will provide you with options moving forward and normally this provides crucial information to the individual/business making them aware of all of their options. Whilst it may seem an expense at the outset, it is always best to have that initial advice rather than progressing down a route that could have a detrimental effect on the conclusion and there may be a more cost proportionate option.


What are your predictions for the next three years within Dispute Resolution?

I suspect that following the Coronavirus pandemic, the Courts will shift to using online platforms for applications and hearings more permanently. This transition has been on the cards for some time however the COVID pandemic has pushed the shift sooner. Hopefully, the judiciary will embrace a uniformed system to ensure continuity throughout the Country. 


I anticipate that flexibility for office base and home base working will remain, which is a big step for the legal sector.  This, of course, will need to be on the basis that all client services are maintained to the highest of standards.


I predict there will be a significant increase with redundancies following the furlough scheme ending towards the end of 2021 and this will have an impact within the employment law to assist businesses with the correct processes and procedures for redundancy.


From an inheritance dispute point of view, I envisage challenges of alterations and the making of new wills during the coronavirus pandemic when instructions were taken electronically. This is on the basis that the representative may not have been able to verify that the person providing the instructions was not unduly influenced by another individual. With this in mind, I suspect Inheritance Act claims may increase.


If you or your business have a dispute, please get in touch.

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