The Psychology of Legal Disputes

*This is the last in a series of four blogs about a contract for services that ended in dispute.

I have one more question to ask, and I am absolutely more than willing to pay for your time – I am not asking for a freebie. So, please send me an invoice. With respect to this contract:

They have done some work and that is what they are claiming costs for, however…

After they had done the work, and they had invoiced me for this work, I rang the guy up and complained and after a bit of argument, I said “I don’t want to pay and I want you to cancel the invoice” to which he eventually said “Well, you are the most difficult customer I have ever had and I don’t want to have anything more to do with you, so we will just walk away and leave it then.” And I said “good thanks

Now, isn’t that an offer to cancel everything and walk away? I accepted it.

The next day he changed his mind and said in an email… “where you have AGAIN agreed to withdraw the invoice” that’s just confusing & misleading. "That offer was made on the basis that you had advised us that you had cancelled the job, I have reviewed all correspondence from you & the offer is withdrawn as at no point have you communicated in writing as is in our terms

He never said that the offer to withdraw the invoice was based on cancelling the job in writing during the telephone call, but it is going to be his word against mine !!!!!

So that was the question. Here's the response –

Why would you pay for my time just to be right?

Stop. Look at the situation. You have a relationship breakdown with the person doing the work.

  • Is the work already done of any use to you?
  • Is it fair that the person who did the work gets paid for the time?
  • Do you want to continue to work with this person in the future?

My suggestion, rather than paying for legal advice is this:

It is a very small amount of money in the grand scheme of things, so don’t make it about the money. If that brings up a reaction for you, be interested in your reaction and what you can learn from it. It’s still not about the money.

You may chose to respectfully and politely refer him to your telephone conversation (by time and date) and advise that you are confirming in writing the discussion on the phone that you do not require his services any further, and thank him for having agreed to cancel the invoice at that time.

Consider how you are feeling when you write that email and do it from a position of being neutral, rather than a position of being right or being in dispute.

My legal advice is to pay the money and get on with life. Continuing this dispute is only going to hold you up from moving forward and cost you more time, money and energy than the invoice is worth.

There is no predictable result in court on the basis of the information that you have given me. Because they have done some work and issued an invoice they have a greater chance of success than you do if they took the matter to debt recovery or court. Your word against their's is not a good position to be in when heading to court.

So tell me, what do you think of this last piece of advice?

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One Response to “The Psychology of Legal Disputes”

  1. Jen Kealey October 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    Well put and I particularly like your referring the client to his own point of refernce and the need to be complete with it.

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