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Commercial Disputes

It is a fact of life that commercial disputes arise. It is almost inevitable that not everything will go to plan all of the time. Issues can arise and conflicts can occur, but that needn’t be a cause for concern if you have the right representation. Our team strives for swift, cost effective and realistic solutions.

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Key Commercial Dispute Services

We can advise on various types of commercial disputes including:

  • commercial contractual disputes including insurance disputes;
  • director, shareholder or partnership conflicts;
  • debt collection;
  • intellectual property infringements;
  • construction and property disputes;
  • professional negligence;
  • insolvency issues; and
  • judicial review.

Keeping you out of court

Mediation is a very successful alternative to court litigation in resolving disputes. It offers a forum in which an accredited mediator – who is of course also a neutral party – acts as a facilitator in order to help parties resolve their differences. This means that a suitable settlement can often be reached without the need for court proceedings to take place. Mediation then results in an enforceable contract being made, but only when all parties sign a written agreement. 

Arbitration might also be an option for you. Arbitration can most easily be explained as an alternative to court proceedings, by which an independent arbitrator is appointed by either the parties involved in the dispute or a third party. Decisions on the merits of the dispute by an arbitrator are usually final and not subject to appeal, so it is therefore vital that you get the appropriate legal advice before entering into proceedings.

Funding a commercial dispute

Resolving commercial disputes can be expensive and even with our effective legal team there are additional costs such as court fees, barristers and experts to factor in.

We can help you explore ways to reduce both the up front cost to you, and reduce the risk of having to pay legal costs to your opponent if you lose.

  • Legal Expenses Insurance: As an individual you may have cover under your household contents insurance policy, or as a business you may have taken out legal or business interruption cover, or Directors’ and Officers’ (“D & O”) insurance. We can work with your insurer to agree a strategy and a budget to run the litigation at your insurer’s cost.
  • Litigation Funding: We have links with a number of companies who offer to pay the legal costs of a dispute up front, in return for a share, usually around 30%, of the damages won. You will also be required to take out an “After the Event” insurance policy to protect you and the funder from having to pay costs to your opponent if you lose.
  • “After the Event” Insurance: A number of insurance companies offer insurance policies to protect you from paying the winner’s costs if you lose the case (known as “adverse costs”). These policies are usually “self insuring” which means that there is no premium to pay up front. A notional premium is agreed, which usually increases at different stages of the case as the risk increases. If you win the case, you will pay the insurance premium out of your damages. If you lose the case, there is no premium to pay at all.
  • Conditional Fee Agreement: If you are making a claim, rather than defending one, and you are willing to share an agreed percentage of your damages with us, we will look at entering into a “no win, no fee” agreement if your case is strong enough.
  • “Pro Bono” work: If your case is of significance to a wider group or of importance for the public good, we will consider taking on the case without charge if it is likely to be successful.

In-House Counsel

Our team of experienced lawyers is well-equipped to support you in various ways. Whether you require advice on a specific issue, additional resources due to capacity constraints, or a second opinion, we are here to help. Explore our legal counsel page for more information and details on our schedule of seminars, specifically designed for in-house counsel.

How we work with you

Whilst based in the South of England, Paris Smith acts for businesses and families throughout the UK. Technology has enabled us to provide a high level of service to our clients whether they are local to our offices or not. Our advice can be given in many ways:

  • Over the telephone
  • Via video conferencing
  • In face to face meetings

We will talk through how you would like to be contacted and the best ways for us to meet in our early conversations with you.

Get in touch to speak with an expert.

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Introducing your key contacts

litigation guide

Guide to Litigation

We created this guide to provide you with an overview of the litigation process in England & Wales. You will find a summary of the common stages a civil case goes through, whether your case is a personal one or commercial, and some of the options available to resolve a dispute.

Download our Guide to Litigation here.


How we’ve helped our clients

“I wanted to thank you for the great service accorded by Paris Smith. Right from the initial contact it seemed “right”. Thank you. I was also very impressed at how Christina got to grips with the technical aspects of our issues and drafted a very forthright but extremely well-structured rebuttal of claims against us. ”

Geoff Neal, Managing Director

Euclid Limited

“We had finally found a firm of solicitors who dealt with matters with the expediency, urgency and enthusiasm that we ourselves input to problem cases. In the event of default and disputes Delta Finance had engaged a number of different firms of solicitors over the years and found the process slow and cumbersome. After being recommended to the team at Paris Smith we had finally found a firm of solicitors who dealt with matters with the expediency, urgency and enthusiasm that we ourselves input to problem cases. It has also been refreshing to receive advice from someone with a detailed knowledge and genuine understanding of our industry.”

Julian Hill

Delta Finance Corporation

“Paris Smith have provided our organisation with legal advice on complex public procurement issues where time has been of the essence, bringing in Barrister support. On each occasion they have provided us with speedy and accurate responses that have enabled us to be successful in our disputes and prevented an escalation in legal costs and time.”

Peter O’Driscoll, Director

RingGo Ltd

“Sources state Paris Smith provide the gold standard of commercial dispute resolution in Hampshire”; “A vast amount of expertise in this firm where nothing is too trivial or too daunting. Support staff right through to partners are efficient and effective”; “A great team with real experts in their field. Courtesy and transparency together with speed of response make them stand out from the crowd.” Another source says “They took time to understand our needs and accepted a fairly complex situation with complications caused by undertones of personal conflict”; whilst another says “All round competence with a commercial stance adopted”. Other sources mention individual staff : “Helen Brown took great care to listen to our case even though it was not ever going to be a large account. She gave us very clear options and worked hard to deflate what could have become a very costly personal dispute between directors. Her advice was always pertinent and thoughtful. Her approach was very reassuring and with no pressure”; Chris Holliss – encyclopaedic knowledge of his practice area. Especially good on agency disputes. Always client-focused”; and “Helen Brown – calm, assured, sensible, cogent individual with an appreciation of the commercial realities of the situation. Very strong technically.”

Legal 500 2023 – Referee Comments

“Referees say “It’s a very highly skilled and knowledgeable team with a range of experts who can help to a very high standard;” “The team are responsive and able to answer queries quickly and effectively. Our conversations were always pragmatic and understanding of the commercial realities of the situation” and “Paris Smith provides knowledgeable and practical advice.” ”

Chambers & Partners 2023 – Referee Comments

Chambers Top Ranked Logo 2024

Chambers and Partners Legal Directory 2024

What the team is known for

Paris Smith has experienced teams in Southampton and Winchester and an established reputation on the South Coast. The firm acts for a range of regional and national clients in sectors as diverse as manufacturing, recruitment and financial services. Regularly called upon for its strength in shareholder and payment disputes, the team has additional expertise in contentious insolvency matters and contractual issues.


“All the staff I’ve encountered have a broad knowledge and don’t need to consult colleagues.”

“It amazes me how they can fully understand my business and our service offerings with ease. It’s a true indication as to the level of expertise in the team.”

“Everyone within the company I’ve come across acts professionally with care and support.”

Noticeable Practitioners

Helen Brown

Helen Brown handles a range of corporate litigation concerning breaches of warranty and fiduciary duties, as well as issues related to shareholder and partnership agreements. She is based in the firm’s Southampton office.

“Helen Brown is a sensible litigator.”

“Helen is always ready to grapple with highly complex cases and difficult clients and opponents.”

“She’s hugely energetic, pays great attention to detail and never misses the important points.”

Chris Holliss

Chris Holliss advises clients on shareholder and contractual disputes, as part of his wider litigation practice. Based in Southampton, he is also head of the debt collection and asset recovery team at Paris Smith.

“100% confidence is instilled from Chris and he grasps the most complex of cases in minutes, offering frank and reassuring appraisals. I’m glad he’s on our team as I wouldn’t want to be opposite this shrewd litigator.”

“A professional yet personal approach to doing business.”

“Chris is at the end of the phone to help with questions and point us in the right direction for any specific case. He’s very responsive and he works well with us.”

Legal 500 Leading firm logo

Legal 500 Directory 2024 Edition

Boasting significant strength in the recruitment, finance, and manufacturing spaces, the Southampton-based Paris Smith LLP team specialises in all aspects of disputes arising out of corporate transactions. The firm has recently expanded its public and pharmaceutical sector work, with Christopher Holliss bringing in-depth experience of advising emerging and international pharmaceutical and tech companies to the group. David Eminton heads up the practice, operating out of Southampton, and routinely dealing with all fields of commercial litigation. Helen Brown supports clients with disputes ranging from IT contracts to shareholder issues.

What clients say:

‘I have found Helen Brown to be excellent, conscientious, available, and patient with me when I’m finding the situation difficult to handle. I genuinely believe she cares about the case and a positive outcome and is proactively fighting my corner.’

‘Helen Brown is extremely knowledgeable and has a measured approach. Responses are always well researched. Gives a very honest opinion, even if it is one the client does not wish to hear, in an authoritative but friendly way. Very approachable and always willing to help.’

‘Our in-house legal team were faced with a complex dispute and they were experiencing delays, barriers and a lack of understanding with our normal external solicitors. Chris Holliss and David Eminton of Paris Smith were recommended to me and we found dealing with Paris Smith to be a breath of fresh air. Within 4 weeks their expertise had solved our dispute which was a record and their approach was a breath of fresh air, sensible and experienced heads who were breaking the mould of the tedious stuffy approach.’

‘Chris Holliss and David Eminton were outstanding, their approach is fresh and their knowledge and understanding of not just the law but business is outstanding. I believe that for a solicitor to be truly effective they need to understand in depth the issue at hand and both Chris and David seemed as versed in my business as they did in the law within a few hours. I cannot recommend them highly enough.’

‘Chris Hollis demonstrated exceptional skill in dealing with a very antagonistic individual and has shown a great deal of empathy and commitment to resolving matters.’

‘Chris Holliss has amassed a lot of knowledge in the recruitment sector. He is always available and will give us an honest opinion of the best course of action.’

‘I have worked alongside Chris Holliss for over 15 years and he has always provided an excellent service to my clients and to me. I can trust that any work I pass to Chris will be handled to a high standard.’

‘Chris Holliss’ particular quality, aside from being a great lawyer, is his industry knowledge. A number of firms claim to specialise in the sector with little substance behind those claims. Chris genuinely understands the market.’


16th January 2020

Is Your Solicitor Playing To Win?


16th January 2020

Is Your Solicitor Playing To Win?

Do your lawyers have the knowledge to win your case? There are many avenues your solicitor could go down to ensure you win, and keep costs down. Partner Helen Brown explores this.

Show Notes:
00:40 What normally happens when you have a commercial dispute? Helen describes the situation you want to avoid
01:30 Helen considers some of the tactical mistakes that are made during a commercial dispute resolution process
01:47 Helen suggests some ideas to think about when you are going through a commercial dispute, how can you ensure you win?


Peter Taylor | 13th August 2019

How To Resolve Commercial Disputes Without Going To Court


Peter Taylor | 13th August 2019

How To Resolve Commercial Disputes Without Going To Court

How do you settle commercial disputes without going to court? Mediation can hold the key. In his latest podcast, Managing Partner Peter Taylor explains what mediation is and how it applies to commercial disputes.

Show notes:
00:28 What is mediation? Peter defines what happens
01:00 How successful is mediation statistically and what is the role of the nominated mediator?
01:27 Mediation can be particularly useful when parties need to maintain a relationship. Peter talks through when this might be the case
01:43 Peter talks about the wider benefits of mediation as opposed to the courts.
02:26 What happens if a dispute is not settled in a mediation?
02:49 Are there any disadvantages to mediation?
03:42 What is the process in mediation? Peter explains the stages which parties go through step by step
05:55 What happens when a settlement is agreed? When is this legally binding?
06:58 What does a settlement through mediation feel like?


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