Why Should You Avoid Family Business Litigation?

Business Leader Post, April 24, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Family Business Litigation is a nightmare. It is emotionally exhausting for everybody. Nobody enjoys it, not even the lawyers!

The litigation can be initiated quickly or it can gain momentum over time. And it can start innocently. A family member who is unhappy with his or her family business situation may decide to speak to a lawyer to understand the legal issues, etc. However, if the other family member finds out about that visit, s/he’ll see blood in the water. The family is then off to the world of attorneys which can easily lead to litigation.

It does not matter how estranged the family members are from one another. When one of them goes to an attorney, it’s as though s/he has brought in a mercenary to fight the battle. S/he has violated the sanctity of the family structure. That sense of violation gives family members license to release their feelings about long standing differences between family members, including those issues that began in previous generations and have re-surfaced in the present generation.

Litigation is not the vehicle to resolve family differences. The uninitiated might say that it provides a catharsis for the family, that one can find psychological relief as well as business relief through the courts. But the only relief to be found is after the “punches” have stopped. And the bruises that are incurred from those punches take years to heal.

The worst part is that you have modeled for future generations how to resolve their differences. Consider another avenue that has more to do with constructive dialogue. It will be better for you and better for the next generation. Ask your litigation attorney about alternatives. The best ones will tell what they are!