Alternative Dispute Resolution:
Is it the Right Choice for You?
You probably have heard about Alternative Dispute Resolution. But do you know what it really is? In this issue, we define several important alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") terms.
- MEDIATION: A private, informal process in which parties are assisted by one or more neutral third parties in attempting to settle a dispute. Mediators do not judge or arbitrate the dispute; they simply advise and consult impartially with the parties to assist in bringing about a mutually agreeable resolution of the dispute.
- ARBITRATION: Similar to a trial, but held before one or more persons who hear the evidence and render a decision. In an arbitration, evidence may be presented in a condensed form and formal rules of evidence may be relaxed. Arbitrations can be binding or non-binding. If an arbitration is binding, the arbitrator’s decision will become a final judgment when confirmed by a court of law and cannot be appealed. If an arbitration is nonbinding, the arbitrator’s decision can be rejected by either or both parties; but, if not rejected, the decision will become a final judgment and is not appealable.
- MINI-TRIAL: Similar to an arbitration except that each attorney’s presentation is made to representatives of the parties who have authority to settle the matter. After the presentations, the representatives meet to discuss settlement prospects. Often a neutral third-party advisor also is present and may offer non-binding conclusions about the probable outcome of the case if it was taken to trial.
- PARTNERING: A process whereby parties involved in lengthy transactions meet to formulate ways to resolve disputes before they occur.
- DISPUTE REVIEW BOARDS/STANDING NEUTRALS: Panels or people available on call to mediate or arbitrate disputes during the course of a lengthy transaction such as a large construction project.
- EARLY NEUTRAL EVALUATION: A process in which a neutral third party inquires into the merits of a dispute during the early stages of litigation. The neutral’s evalution of the case may assist in settlement of some or all issues before extensive, and expensive, discovery is undertaken.
As you can see, there are many ADR options available today. Before selecting which ADR option to use in any particular dispute, please discuss the pros and cons of each option with your attorney.
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