The law plays an ambiguous role in running business. While legal tools can be used to tame uncertainties, for example, by concluding contracts to safeguard enforcement of future claims, they can also generate uncertainty. These secondary uncertainties like ones stemming from vague rights and obligations may be counterbalanced by using different resources and strategies, including acting informally, modifying business plans or accepting the losses from unpaid dues. This book discusses how small and medium enterprises use the law, abstain from using the law, and use alternative pathways to manage business uncertainties. Examining these topics through the lenses of an extensive qualitative and quantitative empirical study on justiciable issues, access to justice and legal uncertainty among SMEs in Poland, it implements and expands upon the paradigmatic paths to justice methodology which has been successfully used to study conflict resolution, access to justice and utilisation of the law by individuals in more than 30 jurisdictions. It argues that the grand promise of modern law - that it is a certainty-providing, neutral and democratic device to resolve problems and conflicts - is not fully delivered. It reveals how the conditions of a freshly developed capitalism combined with the rule of law backsliding contribute to universal, structural problems with access to justice meaning that accessing justice is a resource-hungry process, which incentivises small businesses to settle for their legal problems and engage in informal and alternative strategies.


Chapter 1. A money-making machine: The first look at SMEs’ paths to justice

Chapter 2. The payment game: Indebtedness as a justiciable issue

Chapter 3. Contractual uncertainty and trickle-down economics

Chapter 4. Paradise lost. SMEs, authorities, and regulation

Chapter 5. "I’ve got these nice lads." Accountants, lawyers, and courts as instruments of managing uncertainty

Chapter 6. Bigger is better, until you go extinct. Economic growth and legal uncertainty

Appendix A: Methodological annex

Appendix B: Overview of respondents

Works cited