Like us, you may have been casually (or obsessively) following the recent litigation between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. In watching, however, we noticed something interesting: the case is being heard in Fairfax County, Virginia. Why would two Hollywood actors be litigating in Virginia? The answer, it turns out, is because of computer servers. The litigation involves an article published in the Washington Post by Heard, which Depp claims defamed him. It turns out that the computer servers for the Washington Post are located in Fairfax County, Virginia, which is why the litigation is occurring there. Click here to read a fuller explanation of this issue.

So, if Johnny Depp and Amber Heard had to litigate in Virginia because of computer servers, what lessons can be learned for general business litigation? We thought of three:

1. Decide where you want to litigate ahead of time. Unlike the Depp/Heard litigation, which involves defamation claims, individuals or businesses involved in a contract or partnership/LLC agreement can decide ahead of time where they want to litigate their claims by including a “forum selection” clause in their agreement. These clauses establish the place where the parties will litigate any future dispute that may arise out of their contractual arrangement. Using such a clause ensures you don’t end up litigating in a location you didn’t expect.

2. Decide which law will apply ahead of time. The judge hasn’t instructed the jury yet in the Depp/Heard litigation, but presumably Virginia law will apply, given the server issue mentioned above. Having Virginia law apply may be a surprise to Heard, a California resident, and Depp, who appears to own properties all over the world. Similar to the forum selection clause, however, parties to a contract can decide ahead of time which law will apply to their contractual relationship. This might be important if the parties (or LLC members or partners) reside in different states.

3. Consider whether to include an arbitration clause or agree to arbitration. Some of the interest in the Depp/Heard litigation is to hear details about their personal relationship as well as Depp’s business and acting relationship with Disney. In a perfect world, perhaps neither Depp nor Heard would want these details made public. For that reason, many businesses turn to arbitration. Arbitration is a process whereby parties bypass the legal system and instead submit their dispute to a “private judge,” typically a former judge or attorney. However, the parties can agree to use anyone to resolve their disputes, including persons who work in their industry but are not attorneys or judges. For example, a retired general contractor could decide a construction contract dispute. Parties to a contract (whether a business contract or partnership/LLC agreement) may consider an arbitration arrangement to resolve any disputes more quickly or under terms they believe to be better or easier than traditional litigation. Likewise, even if parties do not have a contractual arrangement or did not include an arbitration clause in their agreement, they can agree to arbitrate a dispute after it arises. Done correctly, arbitration may save time and money, while also allowing for a dispute resolution process better aligned with the particular industry or issues. As noted, one other advantage of arbitration is that it’s a private process that may provide a higher level of security and privacy for businesses concerned with public disclosure of confidential business information.

The Depp/Heard litigation will continue to garner public interest for the next few months. You likely do not want this same level of excitement for deciding any business disputes you may encounter. Utilizing one or more of the tools mentioned above may help avoid that.