What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative Dispute Resolution or “ADR” consists of systems for resolving legal disputes by means other than through full-fledged court proceedings and trials.

Such systems mainly consist of these types of procedures:

  1. Arbitration
  2. Mediation

There are many forms and variations of each of both systems.

Our firm is experienced and adept in each of the most common forms, both in representing parties to the dispute and as facilitators of the resolution process.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a method of obtaining an enforceable decision of the dispute outside the court system usually in a more streamlined, informal and less costly manner than would happen in court.

1. Agreed Arbitration

The arbitration process usually is initiated by agreement of the parties to the dispute, either in an agreement made before the dispute arises (as, for example, the parties sign a sales contract that includes an arbitration clause) or they may agree to arbitrate after a disputed claim is made. In either case the matter is heard by a person (most often a lawyer or retired judge) appointed as arbitrator by an agreed process.

2. Mandatory Arbitration

Another form of arbitration that is frequently encountered in the state of Washington is “Mandatory Arbitration” under court rules adopted by our courts, called “MAR,” requiring arbitration in cases involving claims for monetary recovery of $50,000 or less.

3. The Arbitration Process

In any case an arbitrated matter proceeds somewhat like it would in court, but much less formally and without many of the procedural devices that complicate and drag out lawsuits. The arbitrator in the case of agreed arbitration makes a decision just like a judge or a jury would that can be converted into a court judgment and enforced the same as a decision made by a judge or jury. Usually there is no appeal from such an arbitration award. In the case of Mandatory Arbitration in the Washington court system, however, the arbitrator’s award can be appealed, but if the appealing party does not do better at trial than in the arbitration he/she must pay the other side’s attorney fees.

Mediation

Mediation relies entirely on the agreement of the disputing parties. They must agree to submit to the mediation process. A mediator agreed to by the parties conducts a session in which the parties with their lawyers are separated in separate rooms and the arbitrator shuttles back and forth in an effort to convince or cajole the parties into finding some compromise agreement to settle the case. If the parties don’t reach an agreement the process fails and the parties are free to pursue other remedies.

What is our experience with Arbitration?

Selection and appointment of arbitrators in MAR cases is made by the lawyers or parties from a list of possible arbitrators. Mr. Cronk has been selected as Arbitrator in over 100 cases in King County. Mr. Cronk estimates he has represented parties in well over 50 arbitrations and probably 20 or so mediations.