According to Austin-based business lawyer Jack Zinda, of the law firm Heselmeyer Zinda, PLLC, two of the most productive tools for resolving legal disputes are mediation and arbitration.
Mediation is typically negotiation facilitated by a mutual and unbiased third party. Arbitration is a binding resolution process that resembles the results achieved in a courtroom at trial – but with far fewer technicalities and legal niceties entailed. “These are my tools for resolving legal disputes,” explains attorney Jack Zinda of the law firm Heselmeyer Zinda, PLLC, “Without them, resolving many legal disputes would be much more time consuming and expensive.”
Mediation is very different from arbitration, however. “Sometimes the parties are unwilling or unable to resolve a dispute,” Zinda says, “and that’s when mediation can make a real difference.” It’s most often short-term, structured, and task-oriented. “It’s a hands-on process,” according to Zinda. The contentious parties work with a third party, someone as unbiased as possible, who is referred to as a mediator – in an effort to resolve their disputes. It’s up to the mediator to supervise and moderate how and what information is exchanged between the contentious parties so that a genuine bargaining process begins to emerge. “The mediator is adept at discovering common ground that may exist and deal with unrealistic expectations as they arise,” says Zinda, “He’s also likely to introduce creative solutions and assist in the final drafting of a settlement that everyone can live with.”
Arbitration is a much more formal alternative to litigation. Contentious parties are also presenting their case to a neutral third party, but this time the arbitrator renders a decision in the manner of a judge. “Arbitration is generally considered more efficient than litigation because it’s quicker, cheaper, and provides more flexibility,” Zinda notes, “Typically the contentious parties get to choose their arbitrator and exert at least a measure of control over some aspects of the arbitration procedure.” Arbitrators are likely to possess more expertise and specific knowledge of a relevant subject area than mediators – or even judges. Evidentiary rules are not applicable and discovery and cross-examination opportunities are limited, however.
“The best thing about arbitration is that it’s voluntary,” Zinda concludes, “and mediation is always discretionary. In litigation, contentious parties are obliged to take their chances.”