Facebook pixel Resolving Disputes: Commercial Litigation - Pepperdine Caruso Law Blog | Pepperdine Caruso School of Law Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Resolving Disputes: Commercial Litigation

Master of Dispute Resolution

The world of commercial law is complex and dynamic, often leading to disputes that require careful navigation and legal action to come to a resolution. A strong understanding of the methods for settling these conflicts is crucial for legal professionals, business partners, and anyone involved in the commercial sector.

We'll cover everything you need to know about commercial law disputes and the most effective strategies for resolving them.

What is a Commercial Dispute?

A commercial dispute typically happens when legal disagreements occur between parties involved in business transactions, often leading to complex legal issues. These disputes can vary widely in nature and scope but generally revolve around conflicts within commerce and business interactions.

Commercial disputes  are a common occurrence in the business world and can involve various types of business entities, including small businesses, corporations, partnerships, and even multinational companies.

Common Types of Commercial Disputes

Just like there are numerous types of civil disputes, there are also many types of commercial legal disputes, each presenting unique challenges and complexities. Below are some of the most common types of disputes encountered in the commercial sector.

Breach of Contract Disputes or Breach of Commercial Obligations

Breach of contract disputes or breaches of commercial obligations represent a significant portion of commercial legal issues. A breach of contract claim usually occurs when one party fails to fulfill their obligations or perform the duties specified in a contractual agreement. In addition to the direct implications such as failure to deliver goods or services and non-payment, these disputes can also include indirect consequences like loss of business reputation or future business opportunities.

The resolution process not only involves a thorough analysis of the contract terms and the nature of the breach but also requires a strategic approach to either seek remedy for the breach or renegotiate the terms. In some cases, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation can be employed before moving to more formal legal proceedings, offering a chance for the parties to resolve their differences amicably and maintain their business relationship.

Intellectual Property Issues

An intellectual property dispute arises when there is a disagreement or legal conflict over the use, ownership, or infringement of creative works or inventions protected by intellectual property laws.

These types of business disputes can be particularly complex, involving detailed technical aspects of patents or unique aspects of trademarked elements. They often require the expertise of specialized legal professionals who understand both the legal and technical nuances of intellectual property.

The resolution of these disputes not only aims to compensate for damages but also to protect intellectual property rights going forward, preserving the unique value they add to the business or creator. In some instances, successfully resolving these disputes can lead to ongoing business relationships, such as licensing agreements, where the parties involved find mutual benefit in the continued use of the intellectual property in question.

Employment Disagreements

An employment dispute is a disagreement or conflict between an employer and an employee regarding workplace issues such as wages, working conditions, discrimination, or wrongful termination. Employment disputes can have a significant impact on the workplace environment and employee morale.

These disagreements often require a sensitive and empathetic approach, particularly in cases involving discrimination or harassment. Resolution methods must take into account not only the legal aspects but also the human element involved in these disputes.

For businesses, resolving the disputes effectively is crucial in maintaining a healthy workplace culture and avoiding reputation damage. The goal is often to reach a resolution that addresses the concerns of the employee while also upholding the standards and policies of the employer.

Partnership Disputes

A partnership dispute occurs when business partners disagree over aspects of their business arrangement, such as profit sharing, management decisions, business direction, or breach of partnership agreement. These disagreements can be especially challenging, as they often involve personal relationships and shared business visions.

Partnership disputes require a careful balance between the legal rights and obligations of the partners and the future of the business entity they have created together. Resolving these disputes often involves not only looking at the legal aspects but also the underlying business goals and personal dynamics between the partners.

In some cases, a re-evaluation of the business structure and roles of each partner can lead to a renewed understanding and agreement, allowing the business to move forward more effectively.

Master of Dispute Resolution

What are the Basic Methods of Commercial Dispute Resolution?

There are several methods of dispute resolution when it comes to commercial entities, each with its unique approach and benefits. The choice of the appropriate method depends on a wide range of factors including the nature of the dispute, the relationship between the parties, the costs involved, and the desired outcome.

Here’s an overview of the basic methods and how to decide when to use each.

Method 1: Litigation

The litigation process is often reserved for the most complex disputes in commercial settings, particularly when other dispute resolution processes have been exhausted or found unsuitable. This method is appropriate when the resolution of the dispute may set a legal precedent or when it's necessary to have a judgment that's public and enforceable by the law.

Litigation involves a detailed examination of the facts and legal principles governing the case, often requiring a thorough presentation of evidence and legal arguments. This method can be lengthy and costly, with commercial litigation attorneys playing a vital role in representing the interests of their clients effectively.

The adversarial nature of litigation means that it often results in a win-lose scenario, which can be a crucial factor for businesses to consider, especially when future commercial relationships are at stake.

Method 2: Mediation

Mediation is often a more amicable approach to dispute resolution, emphasizing a mutually beneficial agreement between the disputing parties. This method is particularly advantageous for maintaining or even improving business relationships, as it fosters a cooperative environment.

The success of mediation largely depends on the willingness of the parties to engage in open dialogue and their commitment to finding a solution. A neutral mediator guides the process, helping the parties to understand each other's perspectives and facilitating a resolution that respects the interests of all involved.

Mediation offers a degree of flexibility not typically found in litigation, allowing for creative solutions tailored to the specific needs of the parties. Additionally, its confidential nature ensures that sensitive business issues remain private, which can be crucial for preserving reputations and maintaining competitive advantages.

Method 3: Arbitration

Arbitration is a popular choice for businesses seeking a decisive, legally binding resolution without the formalities and public exposure of a court trial. It's particularly useful in disputes that require specialized knowledge, as the parties can choose an arbitrator with expertise in the specific area relevant to their conflict.

This method streamlines the dispute resolution process, making it generally faster and more cost-effective than traditional litigation, though it can be more costly than mediation. One of the key features of arbitration is its confidentiality, which is beneficial for handling disputes that involve sensitive information or trade secrets.

The binding nature of the arbitration decision, while providing finality, also means limited opportunities for appeal, making the choice of arbitrator and the arbitration process critically important. Businesses often prefer arbitration for its efficiency and the expertise that specialized arbitrators bring to complex commercial disputes.

What is the Difference Between a Civil Dispute and a Commercial Dispute?

While civil disputes involve personal or individual conflicts, commercial disputes are specifically related to business transactions or operations. The complexity and nature of these disputes usually require a specialized understanding of commercial law.

Civil disputes typically revolve around conflicts between individuals or between individuals and organizations. These can include a wide range of issues like personal injury cases, property disputes, family law matters, and more. The focus in civil litigation is often on resolving personal conflicts or disputes that arise outside of commercial settings. The resolutions sought are usually compensatory in nature, aiming to redress a loss or injury.

Commercial disputes, on the other hand, are centered on issues that arise in the context of business transactions or operations. This encompasses a variety of conflicts that can occur in commercial settings, including disputes between businesses, or between businesses and individuals in a business context. These disputes often involve complex matters related to corporate disputes, such as breaches of contract, partnership disagreements, intellectual property issues, and disputes over commercial property.

Commercial lawsuits require a thorough understanding of commercial law and often entail navigating intricate legal and business principles. The disputes might involve substantial financial stakes and can significantly impact the businesses involved.

Who Handles Commercial Disputes?

Commercial disputes are typically managed by legal professionals with specialized expertise in commercial law. These individuals include commercial litigation attorneys, mediators, and business attorneys, all of whom play pivotal roles in the dispute resolution process.

Commercial Litigation Attorneys

Commercial litigation attorneys represent clients in legal proceedings involving business issues. They are the key figures in handling lawsuits in district courts, federal courts, and even up to the Supreme Court.

These attorneys have extensive experience in understanding complex legal matters specific to the business world. Their expertise covers a broad spectrum of business problems, ranging from contract issues to partnership disagreements.

They not only represent the involved parties in court but also provide strategic legal advice, helping businesses navigate through the legal system effectively.

Business Attorneys

Business attorneys, or corporate attorneys, often work closely with companies to prevent disputes before they escalate to litigation. They provide counsel on a wide range of business activities to mitigate legal risks.

Their expertise is particularly valuable in the early stages of dispute resolution, where negotiation and settlement can prevent the need for costly litigation.


In cases where litigation can be avoided, mediators play a critical role. These professionals facilitate discussions between disputing parties to help them reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Mediation often leads to faster resolutions and can preserve business relationships, which is vital in the commercial world.

Law Firms with Specialized Practice

Companies often turn to law firms with departments or teams specializing in commercial disputes. These firms provide a comprehensive legal service, ensuring that all aspects of the dispute are covered by attorneys with relevant expertise.

How to Become a Commercial Litigator

Becoming a commercial litigator involves a dedicated pursuit of specialized legal education and training in dispute resolution, combined with hands-on experience in the field. The journey typically begins with obtaining a law degree, where an emphasis on courses related to commercial law, contracts, and civil procedure is essential. Aspiring commercial litigators should also focus on specialized coursework in commercial litigation and corporate law to gain a deep understanding of the complexities involved in business-related legal issues.

Gaining practical experience is equally important. Internships or clerkships at law firms specializing in commercial litigation provide invaluable real-world experience. These opportunities allow new litigators to apply their academic knowledge to actual cases and understand the daily responsibilities and challenges in the field of commercial litigation.

Acquiring skills in alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration is also important, as these skills are often essential in advising clients on the best course of action, which may include settlements or arbitration outside of court.

After completing their law degree, aspiring commercial litigators must pass the bar exam in their jurisdiction to practice law. Ongoing education and staying updated on the latest developments in commercial law and dispute resolution are important for a successful career. Networking with experienced commercial litigators and joining professional associations can provide valuable insights, mentorship, and opportunities for career advancement.

Commercial law disputes

Ready to Learn More? Consider a Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) From Pepperdine Caruso School of Law

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law's Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) program offers comprehensive training for students looking to specialize in commercial dispute resolution. The program is not limited to law students or attorneys but also caters to professionals in various fields such as human resources, business counseling, and international diplomacy. With over 95% of cases in courts being handled by dispute resolution processes, this program equips students to manage a new generation of conflict effectively.

Attend an information session or fill out an online application today to get started.