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Alternatives to litigating your business dispute

One of the best marketing tools any business has is its reputation. Word of mouth and the community perception of your business go a long way toward bringing customers to your door. You probably work hard to ensure that when people speak about your business, the words are positive and increase your goodwill with the community and other companies.

No matter how hard you try, you could end up in a dispute with a supplier, another company or an employee. Perhaps a customer was not be satisfied with your work for some reason and took you to court over it. As a result, you could face expensive, time-consuming litigation if the issue cannot be resolved amicably. Under these circumstances, you may want to find another way to resolve the dispute that stays out of the public eye and that does not put a strain on your time and financial resources.

What alternatives do you have?

Fortunately, it may not be necessary to "air your dirty laundry" in public. You could suggest using either arbitration or mediation instead. Perhaps one of these options already exists in the contract you have with the other party, but you never thought you would have the need to enforce it. Now that you do, it may help to understand what each of these alternative methods of dispute resolution can do for you.

Arbitration

If it becomes clear that negotiating won't work, you could turn to arbitration. This process is private, but it also works much as litigation does. You and the other party present evidence and testimony to an arbitrator who then deliberates and renders an opinion. This is where the similarities to litigation stop. The decision of the arbitrator is often binding on the parties, which means no appeal is possible.

However, the process often takes less time and money than litigation. In addition, you retain more control over scheduling, and the process is often not as contentious.

Mediation

Like arbitration, mediation is private and less adversarial, and it can work with your schedule. It is also often less expensive and time consuming than litigation. However, mediation assumes that you and the other party want to negotiate but need some assistance in keeping the process on track.

The mediator does not decide how to resolve your dispute. Instead, he or she helps you and the other party come up with your own solution to the problem. The mediator may suggest different ways to resolve your issues, but the final decision rests with the parties. You may also be able to salvage the business relationship you have with the other party through this method as well.

Which alternative is right for you?

Whether you choose arbitration or mediation may depend on what your contract with the other party says. However, if you have the option, careful consideration of the circumstances could dictate which method will work in your case. You may need help in making this determination, understanding your legal rights and reaching a conclusion that best suits your needs and goals.

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