It must be very difficult for those who have never had any experience with Maryland judicial system to discern the best dispute resolution process or the best way to resolve most civil disputes (excluding specials areas of "like immigration law") that are governed by federal law. To further complicate matters, some popular television shows like “Judge Judy”, “Hot Bench” “Judge Brown” have taught most people that “having their day in court” must be the best and possibly, the only way to resolve disputes. That is comparable to believing that every item of clothing that is tagged “one size fits all” must actually fit everyone. The choice of the appropriate process for resolving a dispute actually depends on several factors, some of which are listed below:
- A party’s relationship to or with the adversary or adversaries;
- Mutual interest in maintaining the relationship(s) after resolving the dispute;
- The strengths and weaknesses of each party’s view of the dispute;
- The parties’ interest in resolving the dispute by choosing the quickest possible process;
- The parties’ interest in resolving the dispute by choosing the least expensive process;
- The parties’ interest in taking ownership of the process and their desired solutions;
- The parties’ interest in achieving win-win solutions; and
- The parties’ interest in seeking and achieving creative, lawful and lasting solutions, instead of having a neutral but total stranger (judge) decide the winner(s) and loser(s) in court.
Below are some dispute resolution options to choose from:
- Negotiation: This could be an appropriate process if the parties have a mutual interest in resolving their dispute on their own or with the help of independent counsel and without going to court.
- Mediation: This could be an appropriate process if conducted by a skilled and experienced mediator (a neutral), whether or not the parties are represented by counsel. Each party could, of course, seek independent legal advice and/or review of any proposed settlement agreement before committing to be bound by it.
- Arbitration: This could be an appropriate process, provided each party is represented by independent counsel.
- Collaborative Law: This could be an appropriate process in domestic relations (family) or other civil disputes, provided the parties engage a multidisciplinary team of highly trained, skilled and experienced professionals (which typically, includes independent counsel and other necessary professionals) to help them navigate the dispute resolution process in a non-adversarial, transparent, effective and supportive manner.
- Litigation: This could be an appropriate process, especially, in situations where there might be power imbalance, a history of abuse, alcoholism, addiction and/or conditions that might impair either party’s or the parties’ ability to understand and participate effectively in the dispute resolution process.
Every potential client deserves more than a “one-size fits all” approach to problem-solving and can benefit from consulting an experienced and skilled attorney in order to make an informed decision about the appropriate process for resolving a specific dispute.