What are the Three Basic Types of Dispute Resolution? What to Know About Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation
How to choose the best dispute resolution process
Suppose that in each case, the parties and their lawyers have exhausted their attempts to negotiate a resolution on their own. They’re ready for outside help in ending their dispute, yet they don’t know where to turn.
When it comes to dispute resolution, we now have many choices. Understandably, disputants are often confused about which process to use. This article offers some guidance, adapted from
Frank E. A. Sander and Lukasz Rozdeiczer’s chapter on the topic in The Handbook of Dispute Resolution (Jossey-Bass, 2005).
Types of dispute resolution
Here’s a review of the three basic types of dispute resolution:
The goal of mediation is for a neutral third party to help disputants come to consensus on their own.
- Rather than imposing a solution, a professional mediator works with the conflicting sides to explore the interests underlying their positions.
Mediation can be effective at allowing parties to vent their feelings and fully explore their grievances.
Working with parties together and sometimes separately, mediators try to help them hammer out a resolution that is sustainable, voluntary, and nonbinding.
In arbitration, a neutral third party serves as a judge who is responsible for resolving the dispute.
• The arbitrator listens as each side argues its case and presents relevant evidence, then renders a binding decision.
The disputants can negotiate virtually any aspect of the arbitration process, including whether lawyers will be present and which standards of evidence will be used.
Arbitrators hand down decisions that are usually confidential and that cannot be appealed.
Like mediation, arbitration tends to be much less expensive than litigation.
The most familiar type of dispute resolution, civil litigation typically involves a defendant facing off against a plaintiff before either a judge or a judge and jury.
- The judge or the jury is responsible for weighing the evidence and making a ruling. Information conveyed in hearings and trials usually enters the public record.
Lawyers typically dominate litigation, which often ends in a settlement agreement during the pretrial period of discovery and preparation.