The term “alternative dispute resolution” encompasses various methods of settling and finalizing disputes outside of the courtroom. Alternative dispute resolution has allowed the parties in a dispute to avoid the stress and expense of a trial and, in some cases, remain in control of the fate of their case. Two popular types of alternative dispute resolution are arbitration and mediation.
During mediation, the parties meet with a neutral, called a mediator. The mediator first discusses the facts of the case with each party to understand their positions. Then, the mediator begins helping the parties think of ways to compromise and settle their case. Usually, the mediator helps the parties focus on one issue at a time until each issue has been resolved. If the parties cannot resolve all of the issues in their case, they may schedule subsequent mediation sessions or may have those issues litigated in a trial. The parties are the decision-makers in the case—the mediator does not make any decisions on their behalf.
Arbitration is quite different from mediation. Specifically, in arbitration, the arbitrator serves as a decision-maker for the parties, much like a trial judge. Arbitration is beneficial for those parties in a case who want a quick resolution to their case without the expense and delay of trial. After hearing testimony and reviewing evidence, the arbitrator makes a binding decision in the case. Only in a limited number of circumstances may the arbitrator’s decision be appealed.