Bringing a case to court in front of a judge and jury can be a very costly form of dispute resolution. Litigation is always very expensive, time consuming, and damaging to relationships. Fortunately, there are alternatives to the litigation process. Two of the most common alternative dispute resolution systems are mediation and arbitration. These systems are designed to facilitate the resolution of conflicts with as little time and cost as possible.
Mediation as a Way of Dispute Resolution
Mediation involves the use of an unbiased mediator to reach an agreement between the disputing parties. Mediation is one of the quickest forms of formal conflict resolution because there is no presentation of evidence, and it gives the best chance that both parties will be satisfied with the outcome. The mediator does not have the power to decide on a solution but instead helps the parties to engage in dialogue, present and evaluate possible solutions, and ultimately reach an agreed upon solution. Solutions are usually written and signed by both parties. If no solution is reached, parties may resort to litigation or another means of conflict resolution.
The most commonly used form of alternative dispute resolution is arbitration. Arbitration is similar to mediation except more formal. Once parties have entered into arbitration by a process known as submission, they are bound by the findings and decisions made by the arbitrator. Arbitrators are usually chosen by the parties, though sometimes recommended by courts or governing bodies, and are often experts in the subject matter of the dispute. After hearing the parties’ positions, the arbitrator renders a decision, called an award. This award is binding and carries the same weight as a court ruling. Arbitration has several disadvantages when compared to mediation. First, the process can take longer due to the possible presentation of evidence. Second, the award is likely to favor one party over the other. Depending on the dispute, however, the likelihood of reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution may deem arbitration a better option.
Which method is chosen depends on the nature of the dispute. In fact many complex disputes that do not lend themselves neatly to one form of conflict resolution or another are resolved using a combination of the methods listed above called med-arb. Whichever form of dispute resolution is chosen, the outcome is likely to be less costly and painful than a long, drawn out court battle.