National firm Eversheds has launched a dispute management service in a bid to convert its lawyers from court-based litigators to flexible dispute managers.
Under the plans, all lawyers working for the firm will receive training in how to apply the new approach to their work.
The move follows SJ Berwin & Co's launch of its specialist alternative dispute resolution group at the start of July.
Eversheds' new strategy involves assessing cases early on to find the best way of dealing with the dispute under the circumstances.
This may include alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or negotiated settlement, with litigation only one of several options.
John Heaps, the litigation partner at Eversheds who developed the concept for the firm, said the idea was inspired by the attitude of clients to the litigation process as well as by Lord Woolf's proposals to reform civil justice.
“This is not a 'settle at any cost' or a 'don't ever go down the litigation route' policy,” he said.
“In every case there are different ways of skinning the cat and it is important that people give careful thought to the possible options early on before they are committed to one.”
Staff at Eversheds are receiving training in ADR and arbitration and the practice is preparing a specific training course in collaboration with Nottingham Law School.
Head of litigation Antony Gold said: “Traditionally, the knee-jerk reaction to a business dispute has been a writ. However, this tends to be expensive, uncertain and can wreck commercial relationships.”
He added: “Although there is no doubt that litigation can provide a dynamic part of resolution strategy, it is just one of the dispute management options to choose from.”