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The role of the “honest broker” in partnership disputes

We look at how a trusted third party may be able to help mediate in partnership disputes.

Bitter arguments and disagreement are features of many long term relationships. Familiarity breeds contempt and all too often, in partnership disputes, the relations between parties have disintegrated to the point that direct communication is all but impossible. That is often what sends the parties reaching for their solicitors.

The problem is that, whilst there are times when the involvement of solicitors is needed, they can cause as many problems as they hope to solve. When added to an already potent cocktail of financial difficulty and personal dislike, the involvement of solicitors, with their point-scoring and competitive ways, can become the death of all reason.

Is there another way? Well, one option which is worth exploring is whether there is any third party who may be able to act as honest broker between the opposing sides. They must be respected by both sides, bear neither any animosity and, ideally, have an interest in seeing an outcome that is in everyone’s best interests. Such people are found in partnerships more often than might be thought. Former managing partners, for example, can be just the ticket and be genuinely motivated to help try to sort matters out.

Effectively such individuals act as mediators and can do so over an extended period. This brings the advantages of mediation – and without time pressure dictating that everything should be sorted out in, say, just a day or two. The honest broker can receive and deliver information and proposals detached from personal enmity and, where they are intimately acquainted with the working of the partnership, may be able to make suggestions of their own that could facilitate a solution. They may also have sufficient standing or stature to 'knock heads together'. Better still, such individuals frequently agree to participate in negotiations without charge. Even where the parties to a partnership dispute retain solicitors, the cushioning effect of an honest broker is usually clear and benefits all involved.

So, all in all an option worth considering, where a suitable individual can be identified.

For support or guidance on any partnership issues, contact our expert partnerships solicitors.

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