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The Arbitration Process vs. Litigation Process

Litigation law refers to the rules and practices involved in resolving disputes in the court system. The term is often associated with tort cases, but litigation can come about in all kinds of cases, from contested divorces, to eviction proceedings.

You may have encountered an arbitration clause in a contract and wondered what it is and whether you should be happy or upset about this clause. Or a colleague may have suggested to you that you include an arbitration clause in a contract, and you are wondering why this would benefit you.

Arbitration as a process is very different from the process of litigation (trying cases in court), for business disputes.

Selection of Arbitrator/Judge
     - The parties in the arbitration process decide jointly on the arbitrator; in a litigation, the judge is appointed and the parties have little or no say in the selection. The parties may have some say in whether a case is heard by a judge or a jury.

Use of Attorneys
     - Attorneys may represent the parties in an arbitration, but their role is limited; in civil litigation, attorneys spend much time gathering evidence, making motions, and presenting their cases; attorney costs in a litigation can be very high.

Evidence Allowed
     - The arbitration process has a limited evidence process, and the arbitrator controls what evidence is allowed, while litigation requires full disclosure of evidence to both parties. The rules of evidence do not apply in arbitration, so there are no subpoenas, no interrogatories, no discovery process.

Availability of Appeal
     - In binding arbitration, the parties usually have no appeal option, unless an appeal has been included in an arbitration clause. Some arbitration decisions may be reviewed by a judge and may be vacated (removed), if you can prove that the arbitrator was biased. Litigation allows multiple appeals at various levels.

Here are some differences:

  • 1. Public/Private, Formality
         - The arbitration process is private, between the two parties and informal, while litigation is a formal process conducted in a public courtroom.

  • 2. Speed of Process
         - The arbitration process is fairly quick. Once an arbitrator is selected, the case can be heard immediately. In a civil litigation, on the other hand, a case must wait until the court has time to hear it; this can mean many months, even years, before the case is heard.

  • 3. Cost of the Process
         - The costs for the arbitration process are limited to the fee of the arbitrator(depending on the size of the claim, expertise of the arbitrator, and expenses), and attorney fees.