For one reason or another, you may find yourself in court; whether it’s for a bankruptcy case, patent litigation, white collar offenses or intellectual properties suit, you may believe that proving your case in a formal court of law is your only option. Many people don’t realize that there are alternatives to traditional litigation: namely, arbitration and mediation.
There are a few main differences between arbitration and mediation, though they do share some attributes, like the use of an effective neutral mediator (or third party) to overlook the process. However, mediation services are most often handled by one individual, who helps discussion take place between the parties and will help settle a dispute. This individual does not give a formal ruling on the case at hand, and the decision is typically not binding. Conversely, arbitration can replace the court litigation process with a panel of arbitrators (typically, one for each side and a neutral third party) who serve as judges on the case; their opinions can be either binding or non-binding.
Mediation has been proven to be extremely effective as a precursor to the traditional litigation process. In some states, mediation services are actually required before a court will allow a lawsuit to be placed on the trial calendar. Mediation can allow both parties to air their grievances in a controlled, confidential environment and hear the opposing side without feeling threatened.
Not only does mediation provide a safe environment to settle a dispute, but it’s also a cost-effective, time-saving alternative to traditional litigation. Attorney fees and other litigation costs can add up quickly, and most people would rather not spend their hard-earned money and valuable time in court. Complex cases, like those dealing with intellectual properties, license agreements, product liability or other offenses, can potentially be settled without the financial or emotional stress of a trial.
Both mediation and arbitration allow the parties to speak for themselves, which is a luxury not afforded in formal court settings. However, since agreements aren’t always legally binding, decisions can be more difficult to enforce. Many times, arbitration and mediation services are tried out as an alternative to a trial; if an agreement cannot be reached, the case then moves through the criminal justice system. But it’s important to know that these methods both have measured success, and that parties have additional choices. Whether you’re dealing with a bankruptcy filing or an intellectual properties case, if you don’t want to fight in court, there are proven methods of alternative dispute resolution at your disposal.
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