05.04 Legal action

05 International Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolutions

If an amicable settlement is not possible in a legal dispute or is not possible at the moment, the enforcement of rights through the courts becomes unavoidable. In this case, the following questions arise in particular.

Do you need a lawyer?

In Switzerland at least, you generally do not need a lawyer to go to court. However, legal disputes quickly become legally demanding. Courts are required to provide minimal support to parties without lawyers in procedural matters. However, courts are chronically overburdened and therefore usually have neither time nor patience for this. So, regularly, the involvement of a lawyer is unavoidable. If the opposing party is also represented by a lawyer, the involvement of a lawyer of one’s own is also unavoidable, as otherwise the «playing field» is unequal.

Representation only by admitted lawyers?

In Switzerland and many other countries, parties can only be represented by specially admitted, registered lawyers. In Switzerland, a distinction is made in the designation of lawyers between «Juristen (male) – Juristinnen (female)» and «Rechtsanwälten (male) – Rechtsanwältinnen (female)»*. The latter must, in addition to their law studies, complete an internship and pass a special exam. Only the latter can register with the register of admitted lawyers. The register of admitted lawyers is kept by the cantons. However, a registered lawyer can then practise throughout Switzerland.

*In UK lawyers admitted to the court are called «barristers» (they go to the «bar», which is not a restaurant but the court bench), and those not admitted are called «solicitors».

How to find a (specialised) lawyer?

In Switzerland and in many other countries, the bar associations maintain online registers in which lawyers can be searched by location and region, but also by legal specialisation (s. www.sav-fsa.ch/en/anwaltssuche, with more tips on finding a lawyer).

How expensive is a court dispute?

In Switzerland, the principle applies that the loser of a lawsuit must bear all the costs of the lawsuit («The loser takes it all»). These costs include the loser’s own lawyer’s fees and other costs, the court’s fees and the counterparty’s lawyer’s fees. The court costs and lawyer’s fees of the other party are calculated as a percentage of the amount in dispute (value that the lawsuit or any outcome would have for the plaintiff; In the case of a claim, this is the amount claimed). These costs can quickly become very high. The Supreme Court of the Canton of Zurich publishes an Excel sheet on its homepage as a fee calculator: www.gerichte-zh.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/Dokumente/Themen/Allgemeine_Dokumente/Prozesskosten/P_Gebuehrenrechner_V.pdf (only in German). As a rule, your own lawyer will charge you for his actual time/work. In order to get an approximate idea of how high these costs might be, In my opinion you can take the costs calculated by the fee calculator for the counter lawyer and increase them by about 10 to 20 %. The plaintiff’s lawyer also usually has somewhat higher costs than the defendant’s lawyer, since the latter has to initiate the case, whereas the plaintiff merely reacts to it.

05 International Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolutions