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Most of us are familiar with alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This process of resolving legal conflicts is typically more practical and cost-effective than litigation. It has also been used successfully for hundreds of years.

Many people consider ADR when dealing with a legal issue. Two of the most popular forms of ADR are arbitration and mediation – but each has key differences.

What is mediation?

Mediation is usually a non-binding process that involves one impartial third-party, the mediator. The mediator facilitates conversation, encourages compromise and helps both parties resolve the dispute. However, the mediator typically cannot enforce a resolution – since they generally cannot make legally binding decisions.

This method is often used when the parties have a somewhat amicable relationship. Both parties may be willing to negotiate, but don’t want a third-party making final decisions for them.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration, on the other hand, is typically a legally binding process. It generally involves multiple arbitrators that serve as a judge and jury. It’s essentially a simplified version of trial – and it’s usually more formal than mediation.

Arbitration is a helpful option when both parties want to stay private and keep their case off public record. Both parties get the chance to present their side of the story and show supporting evidence. Then, the arbitrator or arbitrators decide who wins the case – and determine the resolution.

Both arbitration and mediation can be good options if you wish to solve your legal problem without a traditional court process. If you’re interested in ADR, an experienced attorney can help you decide if mediation or arbitration is right for you.