Australia: Check yourself before you wreck yourself: Stakeholder relations and being Dispute Ready

Clayton Utz Insights
Last Updated: 9 September 2014
Article by Sarah Frost and Tim Jones

Key Points:

Three basic steps will ensure your stakeholder relations weather the storm of litigation.

We've already seen the critical role good corporate governance plays in an organisation being Dispute Ready, not just generally but in developing a second key element of Dispute Readiness – a sound document management system.

In the final part of our series, we'll focus on key stakeholders within an organisation that are relevant to any significant dispute, and how you can develop and maintain your relationships with those stakeholders to ensure that you are Dispute Ready.

Stakeholders – who are they and what is at stake?

A stakeholder is a person or an organisation who can affect or, is affected by an organisation, its strategy or projects.

All organisations depend on a variety of stakeholders – some internal, and others are external, to the organisation.

It is important to understand the different stakes a person or organisation may have. Once you understand the stake the stakeholder has, you can manage the relationship to the mutual benefit of the organisation and the stakeholder.

Some of the different stakes a person or organisation may have are:

  • interest;
  • rights;
  • ownership;
  • knowledge;
  • impact or influence; and
  • contribution.

Which stakeholders are critical to an organisation being Dispute Ready?

There are three key internal stakeholders in any organisation that are critical to it being dispute ready:

  • Employees: Those employees with day to day responsibility of the operation of the organisation's business. It is this stakeholder that will be able to provide the factual background to any dispute and give the necessary evidence to enable the organisation to form a view about how it ought to proceed with any dispute.
  • Executives: Directors and/or the Board. It is important that those individuals with decision-making power within an organisation are fully briefed and have a thorough understanding of operational matters that may pose risks for the organisation, as well as insight into how risks and disputes will be dealt with by the organisation.
  • Legal: The internal legal function (if the organisation has one), whether it be an individual or a team of people, are central to preparing for and dealing with disputes arising in an organisation.

The three key external stakeholders that are critical to an organisation being dispute ready are:

  • Legal team: This is the organisation's preferred external legal services provider. The legal team may be briefed directly by the business (if the organisation does not have an internal legal function) or briefed by the organisation's in-house legal team. Part of this stakeholder group is Counsel. Subject to the complexity of a dispute, an organisation will need to engage a barrister to assist in the ongoing conduct of the dispute. An organisation may need to engage both Junior and Senior Counsel.
  • Experts: Often it is necessary to engage an expert to give his/her opinion regarding issues arising in a dispute. Subject to the area of expertise, experts can be few and far between. It is therefore important to ensure that an organisation has the ability to secure an expert (in its key niche areas) of its choosing if and when it needs to.
  • Media: Subject to the nature of a dispute and the extent of an organisation's presence in its given market, it is important that an organisation has some control over the messages that are being published to the broader public either prior to a dispute being made public or after that occurs.

How can you enlist the stakeholders to ensure an organisation is Dispute Ready?

You need to consider the different stakes held by stakeholders of an organisation and develop a plan to manage the stakeholders. That plan should recognise the need to manage competing organisational imperatives and the negative effects that significant disputes can have on an organisation.

There are three simple and easy steps that an organisation can take to enlist internal and external stakeholders to ensure that it is Dispute Ready. These are set out below:

Step 1: Create a Risk Team. In part 1 of this series we discussed six steps that an organisation should take from a corporate governance perspective to identify historical risk factors within the organisation and identify ongoing risk areas.

The Risk Team should be made up of key personnel responsible for compliance with the six steps (this would ideally include the Contract Manager and Compliance Manager) as well as an executive and legal function. In that way, any risk/dispute for an organisation should be identified early.

Step 2: Identify the dispute. This should occur as a natural consequence of the formation of the Risk Team.

Step 3: Create a Project Team. As soon as a dispute is identified, create a Project Team to deal with the dispute. That team should ideally include all of the internal and external stakeholders mentioned. The Project Team should be responsible for:

  • Controlling dissemination of information/ documents within the organisation regarding the dispute.
  • Creating a collection of all of the relevant facts and documents relating to the dispute.
  • Creating a privileged record of the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation's present position in relation to the dispute.
  • Obtaining early strategic advice from the external legal team. As part of this process, preferred Counsel should be included in the provision of the advice. If it is deemed unnecessary, then at the very least Counsel should be briefed about the dispute thereby ensuring that the opposition cannot brief them, securing a tactical advantage.
  • Obtaining early advice from experts. Again if it is deemed unnecessary, then at the very least the expert(s) should be briefed about the dispute thereby ensuring that the opposition cannot brief them. Another tactical advantage.
  • Controlling the internal and external message that the organisation wants to send to its employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers and the general public. The organisation also needs to ensure that it complies with any regulator demands and does so in a manner which is coordinated with the more general This aspect of a dispute is often overlooked and can impact significantly the effect that a dispute has on an organisation. external messages.


The earlier that an organisation implements the three steps recommended above, the better placed it will be in any dispute. Implementation of the recommendations will ensure that an organisation has the upper hand in a dispute on many fronts. Even if an organisation has the weaker case or is destined to lose a dispute, being Dispute Ready will give it the best opportunity (and a significant advantage) in negotiating a resolution on the best possible terms.

You might also be interested in...

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.