San Bernardino Business Law Attorneys Assisting With Small Business Dispute Resolution

If you are a small business owner, you have no doubt experienced a legal dispute at one time or another. Whether through disgruntled employees, a member of the public who is injured while on your property, or a dissatisfied contractor, claims for damages can easily arise as the cost of doing business.

While these types of disputes may be difficult and frustrating, they rarely involve dollar amounts that justify paying exorbitant legal fees just to defend yourself and your business. For this reason, alternative dispute resolution has become an increasingly promising alternative for resolving small business disputes.

Options for Alternative Dispute Resolution in California

The California judicial system heavily promotes the use of ADR in state court cases. Options for ADR in California include:

  • Mediation

  • Arbitration

  • Neutral Evaluation

  • Settlement Conferences

Neutral evaluation and settlement conferences often require the least amount of commitment for litigants who are wary of dispute resolution and would prefer to litigate their case.

In a neutral evaluation, a neutral evaluator is selected who is an expert in the field at issue such as construction. Each party has the opportunity to present their case to the neutral evaluator. The evaluator will then discuss each party’s strengths or weaknesses in the case with that party, and offer suggestions for resolving the dispute. These suggestions are not binding but can help parties decide the best way to move forward.

Settlement conferences are conferences handled by a judge or attorney where the two parties attempt to reach a settlement agreement. Settlement conferences can be mandated by California courts in an effort to see if the parties can reach some sort of agreement on their own – before taking the dispute into the courtroom.

Mediation and Arbitration

Two of the more widely known forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration. Both have significant benefits to small businesses because they offer an opportunity to resolve disputes without the time and expense of litigation. Additionally, because both processes are more formalized, they are more likely to result in a final outcome.

Mediation is a more directed and facilitated process than a neutral evaluation. In a mediation, an experienced mediator works with both parties to facilitate the resolution of a dispute. Rather than try to simply identify strengths and weaknesses, a mediator works with the parties to actively guide them to a middle ground that can serve as a final outcome and settlement of a matter.

Arbitration, by contrast, is the most formal of all ADR processes. In an arbitration, the parties present their cases to a formal arbitrator, or panel of arbitrators, in a process similar to a trial. The arbitrators can hear testimony and evidence, but the rules are far more relaxed than in litigation – and the ultimate outcome of the arbitration can be kept private, which helps protect business interests and trade secrets.

Advantages of ADR For Small Businesses

The primary advantages of ADR for small businesses are that these processes help to keep costs down, minimize the time and effort put into dispute resolution, and facilitate parties in working toward a more collaborative outcome than allowed in a courtroom.

This, in turn, ensures that small businesses can focus on the work that matters most to them by moving past disputes as quickly as possible. Moreover, to the extent that litigants hope to maintain some semblance of a relationship after a dispute is over, ADR helps to minimize adversarial feelings and the personal attacks that are often the hallmark of litigation.

California Attorneys Working With You To Consider ADR Approaches

If you are a small business owner who is contemplating litigation, you may want to consider whether options such as mediation or arbitration will allow you to accomplish your goals with less time and expense. At CKB Vienna LLP, our business litigation attorneys can walk you through various ADR options and help you evaluate what might work best for you. For more information, contact us online or at 909-980-1040.