Alternative Dispute Resolution (commonly known as ADR) can settle a case before it goes to trial. Around 90% of civil cases settle prior to trial. ADR can be court-ordered or voluntarily. ADR generally means two things: either mediation or Arbitration.
Mediation is the informal discussion of a case with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third person. Often the mediator, in private mediation, is a retired judge. The mediator will act as a go-between the parties to resolve the case. Both sides will prepare summaries of their case and the mediator will attempt to settle the case. Typically mediation is completed in a single day. The client maintains complete control over whether to settle a case and at what amount.
Court sponsored mediation differs from private mediation in that a judge or other court-employee acts as the mediator. Court sponsored mediation is also known as a “settlement conference.” The settlement conference is usually scheduled a few weeks before a trial date. Typically, settlement conferences last a few hours. Again, the client controls whether to resolve the case.
Arbitration, on the other hand, means a more formal presentation of the case to a neutral third person, called an arbitrator. The arbitrator is also typically a former judge. There are fewer rules in arbitration regarding evidence and testimony as compared to a court trial. The client relinquishes control of settlement and permits the arbitrator to decide the case. Depending on the complexity of your case, arbitration may last from a few days to a few weeks.
Binding arbitration means that the arbitrator’s decision is final and the losing party cannot typically appeal. Non-binding arbitration means that if a party disagrees with the decision, that party may request a court trial.
ADR can resolve a case well before the date of trial. Cases typically take between one and three years to resolve in court. ADR provides a quicker path to resolution. The parties can enter into ADR at any time during the case. This can provide significant savings to clients in terms of attorneys’ fees and court costs. Additionally, all settlement discussions at mediation or decisions at arbitration are typically confidential. Attorneys also recognize the benefits to ADR’s quicker resolution. Clients typically save attorneys’ fees and costs when cases are resolved quickly. Once the facts, documents, and witnesses have been discovered, the parties are generally ready for ADR.