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The attorneys that practice in Stein Sperling’s civil litigation department are dedicated to employing the best strategy to solve each clients’ needs. Sometimes, this may mean utilizing alternative dispute resolution processes and techniques to assist parties in resolving disputes. Alternative dispute resolution, and mediation in particular, can facilitate a less expensive and more efficient resolution to legal disputes, as well as provide a confidential setting and the opportunity to structure unique and creative settlements not available from a Court. Some courts, including certain courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, now require parties to participate in non-binding alternative dispute resolution in some form before permitting a case to proceed to trial. The most common forms of alternative dispute resolution are arbitration and mediation.

What is Mediation?

Mediation can be an effective tool in the resolution of disputes and cases. Mediation is a voluntary, and generally informal, process in which a qualified and neutral mediator assists the parties in resolving their dispute. The mediator’s role is to help the parties in coming to a mutual compromise and settlement of their claims. The parties actively participate in the mediation process, with the mediator helping to identify key issues and interests, facilitating communication between the parties and assisting the parties in developing settlement options. Mediation is non-binding and a mediator cannot force the parties to settle. The parties remain in control of the decision-making process.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a dispute resolution process where the parties agree to submit their dispute to an impartial arbitrator or panel of arbitrators who will render a decision. Like a trial, in an arbitration proceeding, each party presents evidence and testimony for consideration and an ultimate determination by the arbitrator(s). However, because the parties generally have limited discovery in an arbitration proceeding, arbitration can be more efficient and less expensive than a court proceeding, though not necessarily. Arbitration proceedings may be kept confidential, whereas typically Court proceedings are open to the public. Furthermore, in arbitration proceedings, the parties may have input as to who will be assigned as an arbitrator and, thus, can select an arbitrator(s) with the best knowledge, skill and experience to hear their case. However, unlike mediation, the decision of the arbitrator(s) usually is binding and arbitration awards are subject to very limited, if any, appeal rights.