Let’s face it: going to court is far too expensive, time consuming, and adversarial. That has led to a revolution in the legal system: The increasing use of mediation and arbitration, which is a way to decide disputes without going to court. And it’s very popular. Some believe that mediation and arbitration will eventually make most civil lawsuits obsolete.

“Mediation” is the voluntary process of having a neutral third party – called a “mediator” – help the parties resolve their dispute by settling it on their agreed terms. Most mediators are trained, and a trained mediator can resolve about 90% of disputes. Mediation is voluntary in the sense that the parties can decide not to settle. A mediator is not a judge and doesn’t decide the case. Mediation is so successful at reducing the number of court cases that Montana courts require it – well, require a settlement conference in front of a settlement master, who is essentially a mediator – before a court will schedule a case for a trial. Many cases settle in the settlement conference process. For more on mediation, go to www.MontanaMediations.com.

“Arbitration” is the process of having a neutral third-party decide the case instead of a judge doing so. Arbitration is required in many contracts as the exclusive way to resolve a dispute about the agreement. Arbitration is a streamlined version of a traditional court case with limited fact-finding and relaxed rules of evidence. Arbitration is used in cases from the very smallest to some of the largest.

The parties in mediation and arbitration must pay a mediator or arbitrator, but the simplicity of the proceedings means far less attorney time is needed, which means it’s much cheaper than paying an attorney to fully litigate the case in court.

The advantages to the parties of mediation or arbitration are more than vastly reduced costs. Mediations and arbitrations are far quicker and usually result in a result both sides can live with. Judges are often restricted by law to rule almost entirely for one or the other parties; mediators can encourage a more balanced result and arbitrators have the leeway to come to a decision that isn’t exclusively in one side’s favor.

(This information is of a general nature; exceptions to these general statements might exist. This information is for general educational purposes only; no attorney-client relationship with Overstreet Law Group, LLC is formed unless a person enters into a written representation agreement with the firm.)