Decoding Dispute Resolution: Mediation & Arbitration

Disputes are inevitable. Whether it's a dispute in a personal relationship, business transaction, or legal matter, effective resolution is the main goal of any dispute.
United States Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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Disputes are inevitable. Whether it's a dispute in a personal relationship, business transaction, or legal matter, effective resolution is the main goal of any dispute. If you want to avoid litigation, as many do, you should consider another avenue. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) encompasses various methods for resolving disputes outside the court room. The two most common methods are mediation and arbitration. While each option offers a unique approach, tailored to address diverse needs and circumstances, determining which one is most suitable for your situation is important.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a dispute resolution process facilitated by a neutral third party, known as a mediator. In collaboration with disputing parties, who typically are represented by attorneys, the mediator assists in facilitating dialogue, identifying issues, encouraging understanding, and guiding towards a mutually acceptable resolution. A good mediator has to be a very good listener and must be evaluative. Mediation is a process that prioritizes open communication, flexibility, and collaboration among all parties in developing the resolution of their dispute.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a dispute resolution process where a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, is chosen to hear the arguments and evidence presented by the disputing parties. Like a court proceeding, the arbitration process takes a structured approach, and the arbitrator makes a decision based on evidence and arguments presented by attorneys.

Key Differences Between Mediation & Arbitration


Meditation is a voluntary process. Additionally, parties can choose to withdraw at any time during the process. Arbitration can be voluntary, where parties agree to arbitrate a dispute, or it can be mandatory, where a pre-existing agreement or court requires arbitration. Unlike mediation, once arbitration begins, parties have a limited ability to withdraw. The binding nature of this process limits the ability to opt out without consequences.


Mediation is a highly flexible process. Arbitration is a more formalized process, similar to that of traditional litigation.


In mediation, the disputing parties work in collaboration with the mediator to achieve resolution. In arbitration, the arbitrator controls the flow and structure of the proceedings. Then, the arbitrator makes a final decision based on the arguments and evidence presented by the disputing parties.

Decision-Making Authority & Enforceability

Parties in mediation possess full control over the outcome of the dispute. The mediator facilitates discussions and assists parties in exploring potential solutions. However, the final decision is determined by the disputing parties. In arbitration, the arbitrator has the authority to render a final, binding decision. Once the arbitrator issues a decision, it is legally enforceable.

Similarities Between Mediation & Arbitration

Third Party Neutrality

Mediation involves a neutral third party, a mediator, who facilitates discussion, assists in problem-solving, and helps parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Arbitration also involves a neutral third party, an arbitrator, who listens to evidence, evaluates arguments, and renders a decision.


The content of discussions that occur during mediation sessions is confidential by statute. This includes the parties' offers, statements, and any materials generated throughout the process. Additionally, mediators are bound by confidentiality. Arbitration proceedings are more formalized, and the rules regarding confidentiality may vary based on the arbitration agreement and applicable laws; however, the process is generally considered private.

Time & Cost Efficiency

Both mediation and arbitration are often viewed as faster and more streamlined processes compared to traditional litigation. Additionally, the associated costs of mediation and arbitration can be much more cost effective than litigation.

Mediation provides parties with a high degree of control over the resolution process and outcome, fostering collaboration and flexibility. On the other hand, arbitration involves a more structured and formal process, with the arbitrator holding decision-making authority. The choice between mediation and arbitration depends on the nature of the dispute, the desired level of control, and the overall goals of the involved parties. A comprehensive understanding of each method allows for an informed decision to be made regarding how to move forward in achieving effective resolution.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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