What’s the Difference Between Litigation and Mediation?

Oct 31, 2023

difference between litigation and mediation

Wondering about the difference between litigation and mediation and which one is best for you?

Litigation is the formal process of taking legal action to resolve disputes through the court system, from filing a lawsuit, to a discovery phase involving formal exchange of information, to filing motions and making arguments, to a final courtroom trial (and possibly appeals).  The final decision in litigation comes from a judge or jury, as the case may be.

Mediation is when an unbiased third party mediates, or facilitates, a formal meeting between two parties. The mediator goes between the parties, who are often in separate rooms, and assists them in the negotiation of their dispute.  The final decision in mediation comes from the parties themselves and is usually a compromise between the parties’ respective positions.

Mediation sometimes takes place during the course of litigation, often as an attempt for early dispute resolution.  In fact, in today’s legal world, a lot of cases “settle” before going to trial, often with the help of mediation.  However, mediation can also be used as a form of alternative dispute resolution (or “ADR”) to resolve disputes in lieu of litigation when both parties agree to voluntarily compromise on their position and meet somewhere in the middle.

Litigation: The Legal Battlefield

Litigation is essentially a formal process where disputes are resolved through legal proceedings. It’s a structured and often intense experience that follows specific rules and guidelines:

1. Formality

Litigation adheres to strict rules of evidence and procedure, providing a formal framework for presenting cases and arguments.

2. Decision Maker

A judge or jury evaluates the presented evidence and legal arguments to make a final, binding decision.

3. Timeline

Litigation can be time-consuming, often stretching over months or even years, impacting both parties emotionally and financially.

4. Cost

Legal battles can be costly, involving attorney fees, court expenses, and other related costs accumulating during the process.

Mediation: The Collaborative Dialogue

Mediation is a process driven by collaboration and compromise. Mediation can take place before litigation or during litigation to end the case early by “settling” the lawsuit, or instead of litigation as a form of alternative dispute resolution (or “ADR”).  Mediation offers a more informal path to resolution, where both parties have an active role.

1. Informality

Mediation is informal and flexible, providing a comfortable environment for open communication and negotiation.

2. Decision Maker

You, the parties involved, retain the decision-making power. A mediator facilitates discussions and offers guidance, but the final agreement is yours to reach.

3. Timeline

Mediation is typically quicker than litigation, aiming for resolutions in a matter of weeks, reducing the emotional and financial toll on all parties.

4. Cost

As a form of alternative dispute resolution, mediation is often more cost-effective than litigation, making it an attractive option for those seeking an affordable resolution.

Choosing the Right Path for You

Whether you resolve your dispute through litigation or utilize a form of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation hinges on your unique situation and preferences. While mediation on its own is more affordable and less formal than instituting litigation, it might not be the best option if the relationship between the two parties is volatile or if they are unable to compromise on their respective positions. On the other hand, mediation may be the best choice if the parties can agree to give up something they want in exchange for a quicker and cheaper resolution of the ultimate issue.

Remember, knowledge is your best ally in navigating the legal landscape. For personalized assistance and guidance tailored to your needs, consult with legal professionals like Hudson, Reed & Christiansen, who can help you make the right choice for your specific case.