Every business dispute is unique, which is why there are different ways the parties can get to a resolution. When they get into a legal dispute — an argument over a contract for example — people’s first thoughts tend to turn to lawsuits. And litigation is a road to resolution, in some cases the best road for the parties. When the parties just can’t find the common ground they need to craft a settlement, litigation puts the decisions in the hands of a judge or jury. Mediation keeps those decisions in the parties’ hands, offering a path to resolution for those committed to negotiating and collaboratively reaching an agreement.
These two options are not mutually exclusive. If mediation doesn’t lead to an agreement, parties still have the option of going to court. And in nearly every lawsuit in Minnesota, the parties will be required by the court to try mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution.
Let’s take a look at the key differences between litigation and mediation in Minnesota so that you can get a sense of whether these options could work for you.
Litigation for Minneapolis and St. Paul Business Disputes
Litigation is rooted in the courts. The process adheres to strict rules and procedures, such as filing court motions, taking depositions, collecting and presenting evidence, and more. There are rules governing what kinds of information the parties can or must exchange, what kinds of evidence can or can’t be considered, and what remedies a judge or jury has the power to provide. A pre-trial schedule is put in place to keep the case moving, but because each phase of litigation can take a considerable amount of time, the disputing parties should understand that it may take some time before the issue resolves — expect a year or more from the beginning of the lawsuit to trial.
Ultimately, the judge or jury issues the final ruling, so both parties must work hard to present the most compelling case. While litigation is often more costly and time-consuming than mediation, its system of rules and procedures provides a framework that usually keeps things moving and can keep even highly adversarial disputes from spinning out of control.
Mediation Encourages a Collaborative Approach
Mediation offers a more collaborative approach to resolving business disputes. The two parties agree to work together and try to negotiate a resolution that makes sense to them. Unlike a judge, the mediator does not issue a final ruling, take sides, or generally tell the parties who has the better argument. The mediator facilitates conversations between the parties, asking questions designed to make the parties think beyond the lines in the sand they might have drawn and consider what underlying interests are most important to them. The mediator guides the conversation, helping parties present their concerns and listen to the other party’s points. Ultimately, it’s up to the parties to reach an agreement.
While the mediator will set up the basic structure of the mediation, there are no hard-and-fast rules about what information the parties can talk about, what proposals they can make, or what solutions they can settle on. Some parties choose to involve attorneys in the mediation process, while others do not; generally, if your case is already in litigation, though, the lawyers will be part of the mediation.
There isn’t a set timeline for mediation. Often it can be completed in a single half-day session, but sometimes the parties need multiple sessions as they gather new information and dig deeper into potentially complex issues. Still, in general, mediation allows the disputing parties to reach an agreement more quickly than those participating in litigation, keeping costs down as well. While many business disputes find success through mediation, others find that they cannot find common ground and require litigation’s more structured approach.
Determining the Best Way Approach to Your Business Dispute
If you and the other party can commit to working together to secure a mutually beneficial outcome, then mediation may be right for you. For more intense disputes, litigation offers more structure and leaves the result in the hands of the judge or jury. If you start mediation and find you aren’t getting anywhere, you can decide to move the dispute to litigation. And in the middle of a lawsuit, you may see new opportunities for settlement that could be explored with a mediator’s help. At any point, you can enlist the guidance of a skilled business law attorney to discuss which approach may best suit your needs.
For more information about business mediation and litigation services in the Minneapolis area, call Rubric Legal LLC today at (612) 465-0074 to get started with a dedicated attorney.