Arbitrations are a type of alternative dispute resolution method that can help decide legal disputes. There are some key differences between going to arbitration and going to court. Arbitrating a dispute also is different than mediating. If you are considering arbitration or are wondering whether to sign an arbitration agreement, it’s a good idea to learn more about what happens in an arbitration.

Basics of Arbitration

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method that takes place outside a traditional courtroom. Sometimes, parties to a dispute get sent to arbitration by a judge in court. This can happen when the parties previously have signed an arbitration agreement that covers the claims at issue in the court case. In that case, the arbitrator decides the claims, rather than the judge. The judge may affirm the arbitration award later on.

In other cases, the parties agree to arbitrate before a lawsuit is filed. This may happen because they recognize that they have signed an arbitration agreement that covers the issues. It also can happen when the parties do not want to go to court and would rather decide their dispute through ADR. Speak to a business arbitration lawyer to learn more about your options.

Arbitrations move forward similarly to court trials, although more informally. The parties have the opportunity to exchange documents before the arbitration. They also may have the ability to take depositions. The arbitrator can ask for a preliminary briefing on legal issues or help resolve document exchange disputes. Then the parties prepare for the arbitration hearing. At the hearing, the parties present their sides of the issues to the arbitrator, with witnesses giving testimony. The arbitrator then makes a decision based on the facts and law.

Why Arbitrate Your Dispute?

Some reasons to arbitrate rather than go to court include: being able to choose an arbitrator, having a more informal dispute resolution environment, time, and potential cost. The parties may have the opportunity to choose an arbitrator, giving them some choice over who decides the dispute. However, if there is an arbitration agreement, it may contain provisions for selecting an arbitrator.

Arbitration is a more informal process than court, which some people may prefer. For example, many arbitrations take place in conference rooms or meeting rooms rather than a formal courtroom. The procedures followed during arbitrations tend to be more flexible and adaptable than they would be in court. Arbitrators have some leeway to adjust deadlines, tailor submission requirements, and decide factual or legal questions more informally than in court.

Moreover, arbitrations can save you time and sometimes, money. While it depends greatly on the circumstances of your case and the arbitrator, arbitrations may move forward more quickly than court proceedings. This is especially true now, because courts are coping with backed up dockets due to the pandemic.

How Are Arbitrations Different than Court or Mediation?

As described above, arbitrations are different than going to court after filing a lawsuit. Court tends to be more formal, with rules that cannot be changed and inflexible scheduling. Arbitrators have some leeway to consider the parties’ requests for flexibility and to move the case forward expeditiously. In addition, an arbitration typically takes place in a conference room in a more relaxed setting than a courtroom.

Arbitration also is different than mediation. In mediation, the neutral mediator usually meets with the parties for a few hours or a day. Often the parties will sit in different conference rooms, with the mediator moving between the rooms and exchanging information. The goal is to encourage settlement or resolution of the issues in a non-confrontational manner. The mediator can ask questions, review facts with the parties, or pass settlement numbers back and forth between the rooms. Besides arbitration, mediation is another effective ADR to discuss with the Houston business lawyers at Henke, Williams & Boll LLP.

If you are interested in pursuing an alternative dispute resolution method such as arbitration, you will need a lawyer to help you navigate the process. Although arbitration may be informal, there are still procedural rules and legal terminology on which your lawyer can advise you. Also, you and your lawyer can review your legal strategy and best outcome for the issues at stake.

Let Us Help

As experienced Houston business lawyers, we help our clients understand the legal process and figure out the best path forward. Henke, Williams & Boll LLP’s lawyers tailor our advice to your unique situation, not just “one-size-fits-all”. To set up a consultation, call (713) 936-5521 or use our convenient Contact Form.

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