Arbitration and mediation are two forms of alternative dispute resolution. The goal of both is to avoid the time and expense of litigation through the courts. Of the two, arbitration is very much an adversarial process like in court. The parties introduce evidence and provide testimony like trial, but it is usually less formal. The arbitrator typically hears the evidence and makes an award. By contrast, mediation is more of an informal negotiation with the assistance of a neutral third party mediator. A mediator cannot impose an award. The parties to a mediation do not reach a resolution unless all sides agree.
At the Cole Law Office we frequently represent clients in mediations and arbitrations. In some cases, this is due to a contractual requirement, in others it is negotiated between the parties to a dispute in an effort to keep litigation costs to a minimum.
The mediator’s job is to help the parties reach a decision or settlement that everyone can agree upon. In order to do this, the mediator works to help the parties reach a “middle ground,” often by gathering information from both parties and speaking to the parties alone or together.
Mediators do not issue orders, find fault, or make determinations of fact. Instead, mediators help the parties reach a settlement by assisting with communications, obtaining relevant information, and developing options. Decisions made in mediation are not legally binding unless the parties agree to be legally bound by the decisions. Instead of focusing on making a legal decision, mediation focuses on helping the parties reach compromises and agreements.
Arbitration, on the other hand, generally follows more formal rules of procedure than mediation. The arbitrator is usually a retired judge or a senior lawyer with no ties to either party. Typically, the parties must mutually agree on an arbitrator. Each arbitration proceeding is different, but there is usually an opportunity for informal discovery followed by a hearing in which both parties are given an opportunity to present their cases to the arbitrator. The parties or their attorneys can question witnesses. Typically, the arbitrator has the power to render a legally binding decision which is enforceable through the court system.
If you are considering filing a lawsuit to resolve a dispute, but are concerned about the costs, mediation or arbitration may be a good solution for you. Please call us today at 800-909-LAWS (5297) for your confidential consultation. Because all cases are subject to a statute of limitations or contract clauses that may limit the dates within which a lawsuit may be brought, call without delay to ensure you do not waive any of your rights.