If you are involved in a legal dispute, and can’t afford a lengthy and protracted court battle, there are alternative means of dispute resolution that can allow you to quickly and cost-effectively resolve your differences—mediation and arbitration. Which one makes the most sense for you? This blog identifies the basic differences between the two processes, so that you can have a better sense of how you want to proceed. Regardless of which method you select, you want an experienced lawyer to protect your interests.
Mediation — In mediation, all parties to a dispute work with a mediator, a neutral and experienced third party whose role is to facilitate a mutually beneficial agreement. The mediator generally does not take testimony or consider legal arguments, and will not make a determination regarding whose position has greater merit. Instead, the mediator will help you identify ways that you can resolve your dispute and both get what you need. The mediator may also help you clearly understand all the costs of failing to come to a cooperative solution.
The benefits of mediation are many. First, you control your own destiny. A judge, jury or arbitrator will not decide your fate. Second, mediation and arbitration are private and confidential. You don’t air your dirty laundry in a public courtroom. Third, mediation is almost always a more inexpensive solution, by far, than arbitration or litigation. Fourth, it reaches a conclusion much sooner than a trial. You can resolve your differences quickly, and almost always, more cost-effectively. Fourth, because the mediator does not evaluate evidence or legal arguments, there is no need to conduct extensive discovery to marshal your evidence. Finally, mediation can allow you to resolve a dispute and still maintain the relationship.
Arbitration — In an arbitration proceeding, you work outside of the court system, so can usually settle your dispute in less time and with less cost. In an arbitration, though, your case is heard by an arbitrator or a panel, which is comprised of individuals (usually attorneys) who have expertise in the matters in dispute. The arbitrator will consider legal arguments and will examine evidence/listen to testimony. The arbitrator will also issue a ruling in your case, which may be binding. Arbitration is not litigation, and not mediation. For many business-related disputes, arbitration or mediation, or a combination of the two, is a far better and cheaper alternative than litigation.