How Does Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution Work in the UK?


When two parties are in a dispute, they may litigate or resolve their matter outside court. Honest lawyers will always say it’s best to resolve any dispute by agreement rather than to litigate upon it, the outcome of which may often be uncertain and hugely expensive in terms of legal fees, particularly for the losing party. 

In this article our civil litigation solicitors explore how litigation and dispute resolution work in the UK. If a person is involved in a legal dispute, it is essential to understand their options and which route would be best for them. 

Litigation and Dispute Resolution – What is Litigation and How Does it Work?

Litigation refers to resolving legal disputes in the UK courts by presenting evidence before a judge or jury, then deciding on the case. There are many types of Litigation, but they all involve presenting a case before some judicial body be it a judge or jury. There is an outcome at the end of it, which could include an award of money damages to the winning. This would cover for example medical bills incurred due to the opponent’s negligence in a personal injury case for example, or it could include payment of damages for breach of a contract.

The lawyers will present evidence to support their client’s case, and the judge or jury will decide based on this evidence, which can be oral and written, or in some cases written only. The parties may also be required to attend mediation or arbitration before Litigation commences. Sometimes mediation leads to an agreement being concluded or a consent order being obtained by the court endorsing the contents of the mediated agreement.

What are the Benefits of Litigation?

The benefits of Litigation include:

  • It’s a Formal Process – The whole litigation process is peppered with rules and regulations. practice and procedure. and is detailed. The parties involved will receive guidance on what they need to do, which helps ensure that the litigation process runs smoothly.
  • The results are Binding and Inviolable – If two parties go to court, the judge’s decision is final and legally binding on all parties involved in the dispute. This means that the losing party will have to follow the ruling made by the court but may have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court or tribunal.

  • The ability to be awarded money damages if the case is won – If a party is successful in their claim, they may be awarded damages that can help cover the costs associated with the dispute.

What are The Disadvantages of Litigation?

The disadvantages of Litigation include:

  • Litigation is expensive – Litigation can be extremely costly, not only in terms of legal fees but also in terms of the time and energy that is invested in the case. Furthermore, the parties may find themselves trapped in litigation and have to continue to fight even if they do not believe that Litigation is the best course of action.
  • Litigation is time-consuming – Litigation is a detailed and time-consuming process that could take months or even years to resolve. Several steps are needed to be followed to resolve a dispute through Litigation, and these complicated steps can often take a long time to complete.
  • Litigation can destroy relationships between parties – In Litigation, relationships can be severed, and Litigation is adversarial, pitting one party against the other rather than working together to resolve their differences.

In What Kind of Cases can I use Litigation?

  • Matrimonial matters – Disputes between married couples can sometimes be resolved through Litigation. For example, such conflicts could involve child custody, spousal support, or division of marital assets.
  • Claims against the government – People can litigate when they have a dispute with the government. It could involve damages for wrongful arrest or imprisonment, or indeed the grant of the right of a foreign national to say in the UK.
  • Personal injury claims – If someone is injured and thinks someone else is responsible, they may choose to go to court and sue for damages. Damages could include medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
  • Businesses Disputes – When two businesses have a disagreement, or individuals within withing the same organisation have issues they may try to resolve the business dispute through a legal process. Many disputes could involve disagreements over contracts or payments. In other instances, individuals and companies both can find themselves in situations where they need legal advice.  For such disputes, you may well need to seek the advice of an experienced team of commercial litigation solicitors who are capable of advising and representing you.

  • Construction Litigation – This involves disputes related to construction projects. It can include issues like contract breaches, delays in project completion, disputes over payment, construction defects, and disagreements about the scope of work. Parties involved might include contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, developers, or property owners.

Are There any Other Options Available to Me?

Yes, there are other options available to you, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution. However, you should weigh the benefits and disadvantages of each option before deciding which one is best for you.

What is Dispute Resolution?

Dispute resolution is the approach of resolving a dispute between two or more parties. Most disputes are resolved through litigation, mediation, arbitration or other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Litigation and dispute resolution work in different ways depending on the type of legal matter you are involved. 

It is essential to understand your options for litigation and dispute resolution if you are involved in a legal matter.

Why Use Dispute resolution?

Dispute resolution is a way to resolve legal disputes without Litigation. It can be a good option for people who want their dispute resolved quickly and efficiently or if they do not have the resources for Litigation. Having said that, many dispute resolutions involve legal representation and can be expensive in any event.

Disputes are often resolved through alternative disputes resolution (ADR), which is a process that includes the likes of mediation and arbitration.

Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are many different types of Dispute Resolution, but the most common are:

  • Mediation – Mediation is a form of dispute resolution where the parties meet with a mediator who helps resolve their dispute. A Mediator does not make decisions for the parties but assists them in negotiating a settlement that both parties would agree to. 
  • Arbitration – The process of arbitration is where both parties have to agree in having their dispute resolved by an arbitrator. When a dispute can’t be resolved through discussion, an arbitration panel will decide the outcome. The arbitrator will listen to consider both sides and review any evidence that has been submitted by either party before rendering their decision.
  • Adjudication – Adjudication is when a third party reviews the evidence from both sides and decides. An adjudicator is usually an expert in the subject matter of the dispute. They will usually be able to look at the evidence and decide. Adjudicators’ decisions are generally temporary binding until someone challenges them in court and non-binding, which means either party can ignore the decision if they want to.
  • Conciliation – Conciliation is a process that is often used in employment disputes. This process happens before someone goes to court. The conciliator will talk to the people involved and help them reach an agreement. They might also give their opinion on the situation after looking at all the different arguments. Conciliation could help the people involved reach a settlement or end the dispute.

Dispute Resolution Benefits and Disadvantages?

There is no single answer to this question. Instead, you should consider the benefits and disadvantages of each type of Dispute Resolution before deciding which one is best for you and if in doubt do not hesitate to reach out to our civil litigation lawyers for expert insights. 

Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • The Cost – Litigation can be expensive, and Alternative Dispute Resolution is often cheaper than Litigation.
  • Less Time Consuming – Time Disputes resolved through ADR often take less time than disputes that go to court.
  • Less Stressful – Disputes that are resolved through Dispute Resolution can be less stressful than disputes that go to court.
  • Equal Treatment- Alternative Dispute resolution provides a way for both parties to be treated equally. This is not always the case in Litigation, where one party may have more power than the other.
  • Confidential – Privacy Alternative dispute resolution is usually made in private, which means the parties involved do not have to make their dispute public.

Disadvantages of Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • All decisions are final – When a decision is made through Alternative Dispute Resolution, it is final. This means that the parties involved cannot appeal the decision or take the matter to court. This could be a disadvantage if one of the parties does not agree with the decision made by the arbitrator, mediator, or adjudicator.
  • Resolutions are not guaranteed – Disputes that are resolved through ADR may not be completely resolved. For example, the parties involved might only agree to a partial resolution of the dispute, or they could reach an agreement, and then, later on, one party reneges on their part of the deal. 
  • This can lead to Litigation if both sides cannot come to terms again. Therefore, anyone involved in Litigation should be aware of these risks before deciding whether or not to use ADR as an option for resolving their dispute. 
  • Facts aren’t fully disclosed – Another disadvantage of Alternative Dispute Resolution is that the parties involved may not always disclose all the relevant facts to the arbitrator, mediator, or adjudicator. This could lead to a decision being made that is not in line with what happened. If this happens, one of the parties may decide to take the matter to court.
  • Dispute resolution might not apply to all cases – Dispute resolution is not the right choice for every dispute. You should consider the benefits and disadvantages of each type of Dispute Resolution before deciding which one is best for you.


In the UK, litigation and dispute resolution are two possible options for resolving a legal issue. Litigation is an expensive process that can be time-consuming as well as emotionally draining. On the other hand, dispute resolution may not always result in victory but it can often be less costly and quicker than going to court. The decision on whether to litigate or resolve a claim through mediation should depend largely on your goals for this particular matter – do you want justice at all costs or would you rather avoid spending too much money? If you’re struggling with deciding what path will lead to the best outcome then contact our legal team who can help guide you down either road so that your case has the best chance of success.

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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

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