Is there any aspect of your job more time-consuming than legal disputes? And it isn’t just the endless days you spend checking who said what, who agreed what and ensuring all the documentation is in place. It is the soul-sapping dread that you may, despite your best efforts, be in the wrong.
And that is without the huge costs involved, the damage to reputation and the demolition job it does on relationships.
Yet despite this the volume of contract disputes is on the rise. And a steep rise. As we have reported, many relationships between buyers and suppliers “are becoming more adversarial”. Disputes rose by 167 per cent last year. And that was before the worst of the economic decline. As buyers and suppliers alike come under increased financial pressure the 2008 annual figure of 1,398 looks likely to climb higher.
There will always be blatant breaches of contract that are pursed through the courts. But the downturn has stimulated two other categories.
First, the “we’ve just about had enough of this” type. The “this” may be constant late payment or other annoyances that may not prompt the same reaction in happier economic times. But, according to the lawyers we spoke to, the other new category is more opportunistic and nonessential; cases brought as an alternative to raising funds through credit or expanding business.
Given the unremitting aggro I hope and have some confidence very few will enter more than one of these legal gambles.
On a different note, BA buyers have really taken one for the team by agreeing to work unpaid for a period over the summer. High-profile commitments from the airline’s executives have grabbed the headlines. And although it is good they are also doing it, workers further down the salary scale may take the view that if the bosses’ annual pay packets are already comfortably into six-figures, the impact may not be as hard. Then again buyers and others might console themselves with the assurance that they do still have a job.