You know mediation and arbitration, but wait. There's more

The courts in the Twin Cities and across the country do not suffer for lack of business. Whether the issue is civil or criminal, dockets always appear full. Considering that our system of government is based in the rule of law, that activity makes sense. And yet, so many of the conflicts that come up in everyday life never see the inside of a courtroom.

Resolving matters through alternative methods requires unique skill. Experts generally agree that successful conflict management depends not so much on the ability to argue a point or convince someone else to accept your point of view, but on proficiency in interpersonal communications.

Alternative dispute resolution is the formal name that has come to be applied when those abilities are employed to settle legal questions. In recent years, such techniques as arbitration and mediation have gained wide acceptance across many practice areas. That is certainly true in the resolution of business disputes. But humans, being creative, are always tweaking things to see if there's a better way. And it's in that context that neutral evaluation has entered the picture.

This form of ADR is also called Early Neutral Evaluation, or ENE. And while it is relatively new, it is growing in use and swiftly undergoing refinement.

At the heart of ENE is the idea that cases can settle more quickly and with less friction if all sides are on the same page from the beginning about the elements in dispute. By having a neutral third party evaluate those elements, it is easier to set reasonable expectations about possible outcomes. Managed expectations reduce the chance of someone becoming stubborn later, which is usually what triggers a trip to court.

As the number of ADR tools continues to grow, it can be difficult to know whether any of them might serve your interests. Working with an attorney with proven experience is the way to be confident that all options are given due consideration.