Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is the method people use to solve problems without litigation (or, going to court). Many people decide to skip a lengthy trial to save themselves both time and money. After all, for every trial appearance you attend, you may have to sacrifice work time and pay attorney fees if he or she charges by the hour.
Courts also prefer ADR, as their caseloads have increased over the years. Some of them even require compulsory mediation. Although both parties involved may not reach an agreement during this time, they still have to attend. If you wish to avoid going to court, there are several types of alternative choices available to you. The following are some of your options.
Negotiating is usually the first step people take when they want to resolve their problem. The two sides could negotiate between themselves, but this can be difficult if each party thinks he or she is correct. If negotiation between the parties is stalled, each person can hire an attorney to help both sides problem-solve. This type of dispute resolution is usually informal, and neither party is held to anything by law. Either person can walk away from negotiation any time. Those who wish to do business with each other later may prefer this type of ADR over more formal proceedings because negotiation tends to be less confrontational. Family members and neighbors usually negotiate, rather than take any legally contentious actions.
While mediation can be as informal as negotiation, both parties add a third, neutral figure who helps decide how to resolve the dispute. The neutral person listens to both sides and helps them come to an agreement. In both negotiation and mediation, all parties place emphasis on problem-solving rather than on determining who is right or wrong. Neither side is obligated to follow through with the neutral figure’s decision and can leave whenever they wish.
A mini-trial is another type of ADR used with parties who want to retain a good relationship with each other despite the dispute between them. Mini-trials are typically used in business disputes. Both sides will choose a managerial representative and a third, neutral party to sit on a panel. The two people in conflict will give the neutral adviser background materials, legal, briefs, and exhibits in an information exchange. Those in disagreement will each make a presentation during the exchange, and the panel can ask questions of the presenters. The two managerial representatives may meet on their own to see if they can resolve the dispute. If they can’t, the third party can meet with them, together or separately, to give an opinion on the conflict and the likely outcome of the case if both sides go to trial. If the panel reaches a decision and both parties agree to it, the representatives sign the agreement, making it legally binding.
In arbitration, a decision can be binding or nonbinding, depending on whether the parties have agreed to this ADR for advice, rather than a decision. These proceedings tend to be more formal, like a smaller version of a trial. In order to resolve the dispute, an arbitration panel listens to both sides and makes a written decision. The panel consists of an arbitrator agreed to by both parties or two arbitrators selected by both. If the panel has two arbitrators, they will both pick a third to sit on the panel. Arbitration is structured but ultimately costs less than a trial.
A summary jury trial is essentially a shortened version of an actual trial. They are managed by a trial judge or magistrate, and a jury of 6 to 12 members listens to the case. Each side has 10 to 15 minutes to present opening statements and half a day or all day to present their case. Each side may also cross-examine the other. Most rules of the court are relaxed, and after another 10 minutes for closing statements, the jury makes its deliberation. The decision made by the jury is nonbinding. However, the trials allow both sides to reexamine their own cases and decide how to resolve the dispute without proceeding to an actual trial.
Each type has its advantages. If you’re facing a dispute you’re unable to resolve on your own, consider contacting one of our alternative dispute resolution attorneys to discuss your case. We may be able to help you decide how to best resolve your problem. Contact us today.