Alternative Dispute Resolution (known as ADR) is becoming increasingly important in the modern legal world. Everyone in the legal sector is in agreement that going to court should always be a last resort. As a result judges are increasingly favouring dispute resolution early on in the process in an attempt to try to settle disputes without the cost and inconvenience of full-blown litigation.
At Lovetts we have significant experience in using mediation (the most common form of ADR) to settle disputes at an early stage in the process. The way the process usually works is that both parties (and their lawyers if needs be) will come under one roof and a mediator will go back and forth between the parties in an attempt to resolve the differences and agree a settlement.
In general the process works best where the circumstances of a case may not be clear cut so there is some room for give and take on both sides. Or where a plethora of trivial issues is likely to escalate costs out of proportion to the amount in dispute.
Although mediation is not usually binding we have found that in about 80% of cases the parties manage to settle as a result of the mediation. It is possible to agree a binding settlement as part of a mediation process if both parties agree to do so.
Other reasons why mediation is often a good option include confidentiality - everything surrounding the mediation is bound by confidentiality agreements - and the fact that mediation often preserves the trading relationship between the two parties.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that although mediation is not yet mandatory in the legal process, the Civil Procedure Rules make it clear that court proceedings should be the absolute last step and therefore a judge can impose a costs sanction (even on the winning party!) if in their view the parties have unreasonably failed to mediate.