The myriad rules, formalities and procedural safeguards of the American justice system can sometimes seem quite boggling to the average citizen. Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as arbitration and conflict mediation, have become popular options for parties that wish to settle legal claims without going through the traditional civil system.
In traditional litigation, one party hires an attorney and files a lawsuit, requiring the other party to defend the lawsuit by hiring his or her own lawyer. In this model, a judge or jury is responsible for deciding whether the prosecution or defense is in the right.
In arbitration, a neutral third party is employed to resolve the conflict instead of bringing it before a judge or jury. Arbitration is typically a binding procedure (though there are exceptions), and arbitrators function a bit like judges in that they make decisions about evidence and submit written statements about the case.
Many people seek arbitration services as an alternative to traditional litigation because it is generally considered to be a less costly and time-consuming process. Other reasons for choosing arbitration may include:
Despite its many benefits, arbitration is not always the best choice for every case. In certain situations, it can lead to far more complications in handling a dispute.
The most appealing benefits of arbitration often double as drawbacks when it comes to resolving difficult cases. Here are some of the common limitations of choosing to resolve a case outside the courts:
The key in deciding whether to arbitrate a case often lies in carefully considering the nature of the dispute and the quality of relationship between the parties.
Generally, the more complicated and adversarial the relationship, the more taxing it will be to seek mediation outside a court of law. The checks and balances, as well as precautionary formalities, associated with the traditional litigation system may still be the best choice when dealing with a highly volatile case.
Blackman, John S. (1999). Things to Consider Before Including an Arbitration Clause in Your Contract. Retrieved March 7, 2008, from the FindLaw Web site.
Corcoran, Tim (2008). What is ADR? Retrieved March 7, 2008, from Redlands Arbitration and Mediation Services Web site.