Today’s world offers a spectrum of dispute resolution options. When people come to a lawyer with a problem – “I don’t get along with my partner,” “They didn’t pay me what they should have,” or “My wife and I are separating” – they are looking for a solution, not a technique. We help our clients explore the most effective solution for their needs.
Negotiation is the easiest solution. Some disputes can be solved without the use of attorneys and other professionals, but often background support and strategic planning can be helpful. Some parties prefer to have the entire conversation take place between lawyers.
Mediation is a facilitated conversation with a structure that varies depending on the type of case. For example, parties might meet in the same room and speak directly to each other, or use a mediator to manage discussion between two separate rooms. In both family and civil cases, mediation can be very effective.
Collaborative law is a highly structured negotiation process in which specially trained professionals help clients focus on resolving their issues without court intervention. Collaborative process is spreading from the divorce world, where it is a popular alternative, to the civil realm.
Arbitration involves using a neutral third party to make a decision for the disputing parties. This process is less formal than litigation and operates under its own set of rules. Arbitration awards are enforceable in court.
Another emerging development is for parties to hire settlement counsel specifically to resolve a case, especially in civil matters. In the right cases, this enables clients to protect and assert legal rights while seeking to resolve the matter efficiently.
Unless you are a party to a contract that spells out a dispute resolution process or a judge orders one, you cannot force other parties into negotiations, mediation or a collaborative process. Litigation, however, is different. The process begins with a summons and complaint. Once litigation begins, there are many procedural protections and discovery options. The downside is that there are also increased costs and delays, the details of the dispute will be public, and under the law the judge may have limited power to fashion a creative outcome.
Not every option is appropriate for every case. We can discuss the pros and cons of each approach with you as it applies to your dispute and recommend litigation counsel if needed.