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Mediation vs. Arbitration

How are they different?

Intro to ADR

Both, mediation and arbitration, are forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). They are called this because they serve as an alternative to tradition litigation of a dispute within the court of law. Some have even called them appropriate dispute resolution as a vast majority of conflict is better resolved through either mediation or arbitration.

Mediation and arbitration, both, involve the use of a neutral, third party who hears the facts of the matter from each of the disputing parties.


In mediation, the neutral, third party, called a mediator, is tasked with helping the disputing parties to negotiate their differences. The mediator does not render a decision in the matter. The resolution of the dispute will be reached when both sides come to mutual agreement. There are three outcomes to a mediation, no agreement, partial agreement, or full agreement. Once any type of agreement achieved, the conditions of the resolution will typically be memorialized in a written document that is a legal contract.


In arbitration, the neutral, third party, called an arbitrator, is tasked with hearing the facts of the dispute from all involved parties and rendering a decision in the matter afterwards. The arbitrator essentially acts in a similar capacity as a judge, although an arbitrator is not required to be an attorney or have been to law school. Unlike a mediator, an arbitrator has the authority to issue subpoenas for witnesses and relevant documents or records.

The final decision of the arbitrator can be either binding or non-binding. Either party can reject the decision of the arbitrator in non-binding cases, resulting in the dispute to be unresolved with potential litigation to follow. In binding cases, the arbitrator's decision is final unless any appeals may be filed based on specific factors, such potential ethics violations by the arbitrator.

Both, mediation and arbitration are effective, cost-effective, and rapid avenues to resolve disputes where relationships can be preserved and facts of the conflict remain confidential.

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