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Settling up: Design consultancies facing expensive legal actions against former clients should persevere to avoid being `walked over’, says Gordon Orr (pictured right), joint managing director of former Asda roster consultancy Sparkes Orr. Sparkes Orr served a writ on the supermarket chain over alleged unpaid fees and poaching of former Sparkes Orr director Dana Armstrong (DW 6 May 1994). The case ended after Sparkes Orr elected to accept an amount of money paid into court by Asda. Gordon Orr explains: `Asda paid a lump of money into court early on and started trying to negotiate out of court. It wasn’t saying anything sensible but was putting more money into court at each stage until it got to the point that it was virtually the amount we were seeking. We took a commercial decision. To carry on would have cost us more than the amount outstanding,’ he says.

Taking the money Asda had paid into court meant Asda had to pay two-thirds of Sparkes Orr’s legal costs and Asda’s own costs. Sparkes Orr received ú200 000 of the ú215 000 it was claiming and had to pay only one-third of its ú35 000 costs. Pursuing the question of staff poaching could have been `a crusade’, but Sparkes Orr decided a year of legal battles was enough. `I am glad we stood up to them,’ says Orr. `A year is quite a long time and the legal costs were pretty heavy. A lot of consultancies wouldn’t have been able to do that. Unfortunately for Asda, we stuck it out.’ His message to other consultancies faced with legal battles: `If you can grit your teeth and carry the costs you must carry on or you will get walked over.’

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