Conciliation and mediation make better bedfellows than warring rivals.
A practice owner and an associate dentist were in dispute. The associate had been asked to leave the practice after 10 years to make room for a member of the practice owner’s family who had recently qualified.
The associate was already happily settled in the area and decided to set up practice nearby. As soon as the principal realised this, the associate was excluded from the practice. The resulting legal dispute saw both parties spending in excess of £30,000 on legal bills prior to a settlement being negotiated.
In the process, both parties had become increasingly critical of each other to patients. The principal had withheld monies due to the associate and this initiated the involvement of lawyers. There was no written contractual agreement in existence and neither party could agree as to what had been verbally agreed at the outset of the arrangement. Neither party was willing to even consider the other’s point of view.
After a process of mediation, an agreement was reached. Once the facts had been established, it was clear that the monetary value of the disagreement was less than £3,000 (approximately 10 per cent of the legal costs incurred). The situation was out of hand because neither party had been willing to conciliate. The catalyst for conciliation was a patient complaint to the dental council following the refusal of one party to provide a copy of their clinical records.
Many disputes can be avoided by effective communication and good business practices and an early willingness to resolve matters by conciliation or mediation when there is a dispute.