Mediation and Arbitration are forms of what is commonly called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Alternative Dispute Resolution generally refers to a process in which the parties involved in a dispute, which may or may not be involved in active litigation, agree to try to reach a settlement of their dispute outside the normal parameters of a trial court setting. Every case involves disputes and disagreements between the parties involved, but there are often times where parties having a dispute will engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution to try to avoid the costs of a protracted and lengthy litigation process or trial. In those instances, mediation and arbitration may be considered.
Mediation typically involves a situation where each party to the dispute would be represented by a lawyer and an independent third person would be agreed upon by both parties to be the "mediator." Each party would submit a position paper regarding his or her side of the dispute. All of the parties would then come together on a prearranged date to meet with the mediator and with each other in a setting where the mediator could give his own independent evaluation of the case to each side and try to assist each side in resolving the issues and disputes about which they had not been able to agree. Mediation can be an excellent way resolve cases where there is some willingness by both parties to try to resolve the matter without a trial and each party is open to some give and take with regard to his or her positions.
Arbitration is a similar procedure except that, instead of a mediator, the parties agree upon an independent person known as an "arbitrator." Whereas the mediator does not actually make any decision about the case, but simply tries to assist the parties in reaching one on their own, an arbitrator would typically decide the case and the issues involved in the case after having received submissions of the parties and hearing their arguments. The advantage of an arbitration is that it is much less formal than a court proceeding, so that it can be done more efficiently and cost effectively than having a trial in court. Further, the parties can choose to engage in what is often called "non-binding arbitration" in which the arbitrator makes a decision and then the parties can agree to accept it or can agree to simply move forward with a court proceeding. Non-binding arbitration has the advantage of giving the parties some indication of what may occur if the case goes to trial and can often be used to convince a party who is uncertain about a particular issue as to whether the issue should be tried before a court or the case should be settled.
Alternative Dispute Resolution can, in appropriate cases, be a very useful tool to resolving cases in an efficient and cost-effective way, and Craig & Craig, LLC attorneys have been involved in all areas of Alternative Dispute Resolution, representing parties in mediations and arbitrations as well as acting as mediators or arbitrators in cases brought and defended by other firms.
Julie A. Webb and Paul R. Lynch, Members at the Mt. Vernon office, have both completed Basic Mediation Skills Training at the Law School of Southern Illinois University, and are active as mediators, as well as counsel for participants in arbitration and mediation. Ms. Webb has also completed a 40-hour course in Family Mediation. She is a court-approved mediator in the Second Judicial Circuit of Illinois for family mediations.