An Easier, Less Costly Way To Settle Disputes

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term that refers to settling legal disputes without going to trial. There are a number of different forms of ADR, including arbitration, mediation, summary jury trials, mini trials and moderated settlement conferences. Generally, ADR is less expensive and less time-consuming than traditional litigation.

If you would like to learn more about alternative dispute resolution, contact The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski. Our attorneys can answer your questions and help you decide if ADR is a good option for you. Based in Harrisburg, we serve throughout Pennsylvania. You can call us at 717-260-3483 or 866-830-1116, or arrange your appointment online.

Types of ADR

In arbitration, the parties submit their dispute to a neutral third party arbitrator (or a panel of arbitrators) who decides the case. Arbitration can be binding, in which the arbitrator has the power to render a decision that can be enforced by judicial means, or non-binding, in which the arbitrator renders an advisory finding that the parties can accept or reject.

Mediation is a common form of ADR in which the parties seek the help of a neutral third-party mediator to resolve their case through negotiation. Unlike arbitration, mediation is not adjudicatory and the parties have the power to decide how and if they will come to a resolution. The mediator does not issue a decision; he or she helps the parties reach an agreement by clarifying their positions and goals and encouraging them to work together.

In a summary jury trial, the parties present their cases to a mock jury. The jury's findings are not binding, but they give the parties a preview of how things might work out in a real trial. Parties can agree to participate in summary jury trials; sometimes, the court may order participation.

A mini trial is similar to non-binding arbitration or a summary jury trial; in a mini trial, however, the attorneys present a summary of their cases to the parties' decision makers instead of a neutral third party. The decision-makers then negotiate a settlement, generally without their attorneys present. Mini-trials are most effective in commercial disputes in which the parties are businesses that have relatively equal power.

A moderated settlement conference, also known as an early neutral evaluation, is similar to arbitration, but there is more interaction between the parties, attorneys and panelists. The panelists are typically attorneys who hear a shortened presentation of the case from each party and then issue a non-binding decision on liability and/or damages. The idea is that the decision, while not binding on the parties, will help them negotiate more constructively.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Alternative dispute resolution has a number of benefits. It is:

  • Shorter and more efficient that typical litigation and trial
  • Less expensive than trial
  • More amenable to input from the parties involved
  • More confidential, in many cases, than traditional court proceedings, as many court documents are made public.

ADR does have some disadvantages as well, including:

  • If a resolution is not reached and the parties proceed to trial, there may be unnecessary delay and expense
  • Parties may use ADR as a "free" discovery tool to obtain information about the opposing party's trial strategies
  • No legal precedent will be created
  • Some parties prefer to have a jury resolve their disputes
  • If the parties have a difficult relationship, face-to-face negotiations may make things worse

Speak To An Attorney

Parties ought to consider a number of different factors when deciding whether to use alternative dispute resolution. The attorney and client should consider the client's goals and interests. If the client wants a quick resolution to the case, ADR may be a good option. The subject matter of the case may also be a determinative factor in deciding whether and what type of ADR to use.

A lawyer at The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski, who has experience in litigation and ADR, can evaluate your situation and explain the options available to you. Reach out to us to learn more.