You might have heard the phrase, “justice delayed is justice denied.” That adage describes the unfortunate but all too common legal scenario where an aggrieved party seeks relief from the court system, but the relief from the courts takes way too long. The “justice” is essentially denied because it was delayed too long, adding insult to the original injury.

This unfortunate scenario long preceded the Covid pandemic, but the pandemic greatly exacerbated the problem. During the acute stages of the pandemic, injured parties seeking relief were forced to confront the new realities of courtroom litigation: virtual hearings, multiple adjournments, figuring out how to take testimony in contested virtual matters, and myriad other idiosyncrasies and new court rules which tested the patience of everyone involved.  Indeed, those in legal circles will agree that one of the unfortunate byproducts of the Covid pandemic is the tremendous increase in the backlog of cases jamming up the court system. Courts throughout the country are still struggling to catch up. I was one of those judges in 2020 and 2021 trying in vain reduce the staggering backlog of cases. And every day I encountered litigants who were at their breaking point, not only from the stress normally attendant to court proceedings but also because their patience with the court system had justifiably worn thin.

There is, however, a clever way to avoid this backlog problem for many commercial, business and family disputes, and the solution tends to be much more efficient than traditional courthouse litigation. This cost-effective solution is Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR. Mediation is perhaps the most common form of ADR. With mediation, parties to a dispute can bypass the court system entirely, settling on a mediator to handle the dispute. Mediation utilizes a neutral third-party (often a retired judge or lawyer but it doesn’t have to be) who helps the parties communicate and negotiate an optimal resolution that both parties can stomach. Mediation can be accomplished at a neutral setting, in a much less intimidating environment than the courthouse, and can also be done virtually if the parties agree.

Importantly, mediation is not binding on the parties so it involves little risk. If the mediation is unsuccessful, then the parties always have the traditional option of the courthouse to fall back on.   Mediation is especially effective given the enormous backlog of cases in the wake of the pandemic, providing an immediate solution for all parties. It also can be a much less expensive option for parties, who can sidestep legal fees which seem to grow exponentially when a matter goes to court.

Mediation can be an attractive option for most civil cases involving identifiable damages, for property, business, and commercial disputes, and for divorce cases where there is no domestic abuse. An injured party might originally think, “I’m too angry/injured/nervous to try mediation!” but the benefits are real, the aggrieved party often finds acceptable redress, and justice is delivered in a more timely and economical fashion.  So, if you are mulling whether to file suit against your family member/business partner/neighbor/etc., think of that old adage and consider mediation first.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or acted on as such. The content on this page may not reflect current legal developments or address your situation. It does not create an attorney-client relationship or provide guarantees or endorsement of behavior and is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney on a particular legal matter.