James Hardy, an attorney in Connecticut, often witnesses the impacts of the adversarial system. As a litigator in both family and civil law cases, he sees that there is often a cost to justice being served and it is often to the detriment of his clients’ finances and mental health.
“People often imagine these epic courthouse battles where justice prevails and everyone is happy,” says James Hardy. “In reality, going to court is expensive as clients not only have to pay for my fees but the costs of presentations, travel, and exhibits. They come out of the process exhausted, even if they prevail.”
Cost is often the biggest barrier to people retaining legal services. Alternative dispute resolution reduces costs by avoiding trial appearances and settling matters quicker.
“Alternative dispute resolution allows matters to settle faster,” says James Hardy, Connecticut Attorney. “Attorneys do not go into long discovery periods like they do for trials and there is more settlement discussion. Basically, everything is less complex which means attorneys do not have to spend as much time on cases and request higher fees.”
Arbitration, a process where parties plead their case to a neutral third party who decides the matter, is less complex than trial although it can produce the same results–mainly an end to a legal conflict. It is often preferred by clients and attorneys alike for its informality, flexibility, and finality.
“There is not the same intense preparation for arbitration as there is for trial,” says James Hardy. “The rules of evidence are simpler and the parties can decide how they want the arbitration to proceed. I can also confer with the other attorney and choose an arbitrator we both agree on. This does not make arbitration easier or less important, but it is a good way to achieve final results without significant costs to a client.”
Another advantage of alternative dispute resolution is speed. While cases may be delayed several times if they are on a trial calendar, that is infrequent when parties agree to alternative dispute resolution. Unless there is a significant emergency, arbitrations are normally not continued.
“According to the American Arbitration Association, U.S. District Court cases took 12 to 16 months longer to be heard and settled than cases that went to arbitration,” says James Hardy, attorney from Connecticut. “When you are looking at an auto accident with serious injuries or a contested custody case, you have two parties who are likely looking at one of the worst developments in their lives. A quick resolution in these cases allows for less stress along with lower expenses.”
The finality of arbitration is another reason it is appealing. Court trials can be appealed and that makes a matter last longer and more painfully. When a decision is arrived at through alternative dispute resolution, James Hardy notices that the finality of the decision helps clients move on–even if it is not in their favor.
“A lack of opportunity to appeal may be perceived by some clients as a lack of options,” says James Hardy. “But in many cases, a final decision is reassuring. Clients frequently want their cases over with and that happens sooner when we use alternative dispute resolution.”