“The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final. This is Judge Judy.” If you’re like many Americans with a TV, you’ve likely seen at least one episode of Judge Judy, the award-winning court show with 25 seasons to its name. Judge Judith Sheindlin started as a prosecutor and Manhattan family court judge. She eventually made her way into the spotlight as the star of her now famous arbitration-based television show. Along with The People’s Court, Judge Judy introduced Americans to a different type of “court proceeding,” albeit in an exaggerated fashion.

What exactly is arbitration? For certain types of cases, a true court hearing is not needed. Disputes need to be settled, and a third party is needed to assist in the settlement. In the case of arbitration, the third party (Judge Judy) makes the final ruling based on the evidence. The defendant and plaintiff cannot argue the verdict, and no negotiation is possible. For disputes looking to reach a compromise, mediation is the best option. A third party hears all the evidence, then offers suggested solutions. They are the mediator between defendant and plaintiff, making sure things stay on track and that the final outcome is fair. Mediators don’t get to make calls like Judge Judy, but they play a key role in settling disputes.

Contrary to what you see on TV, mediation and arbitration are not cut and dry. The process can take months and involve many moving parts that we don’t see during episodes. While a fantastic solution to dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration are not simple proceedings by any means. This method of justice is deployed in a variety of cases including divorce, family disputes, domestic violence, civil cases, lawsuits against corporations, insurance claims, worker’s compensation cases, and more.

What are some challenges with mediation and arbitration?

The justice system is complex and involves many steps to get things accomplished. There’s a strict set of regulations that must be adhered to which can unfortunately cause challenges. Mediation and arbitration each have their own obstacles, but they also share common struggles that delay settlements.

  • Using a third party is costly: As with any court proceeding, costs can start to add up quickly. The mediator or arbitrator must be present at all meetings, and they receive a fee for their service. Considering that settlements can take months, you can expect to dish out a substantial sum of money.
  • Settlements can take a lot of time: On average, it can take 16 months for a settlement to be reached. The more complex the case, the longer it will take to reach a conclusion. You’ll be sacrificing time, energy, and money throughout the duration, and you may  have to wait over a year for closure.
  • You don’t always have the chance to discuss with the main decision maker: If a dispute is between a company and individuals, you will likely not have the head honcho in the resolution sessions. The CEO of McDonald’s doesn’t have time to meet with a disgruntled customer or employee for over a year, so they send representatives. Because the person you’re working with is not the leader of the company, you cannot express the problems in a meaningful way that will help shape actions in the future. Representatives are there to close the case and get you on your way with as little bad publicity for the company as possible.
  • Tensions are high and parties can be uncomfortable throughout the process: Lastly and arguably most importantly, arbitration and mediation is used in a variety of cases that are very emotionally charged. Let’s say the case is a family dispute issue involving domestic violence. It can be traumatic for the two parties to be in the same general area as one another. Not only will they be uncomfortable, they will be less focused and tensions can cause outbursts that are not beneficial to the case.

So, what’s the solution? Online Dispute Resolution.

We are lucky to live during a time of digital transformation. Many processes and services are now available virtually, including dispute resolution. Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) has been on the rise for several years, but 2020 made it readily available within months. ODR is dedicated to making justice more accessible to all. Online Dispute Resolution helps eliminate some of the challenges we’ve just discussed and is the future of dispute settlement.

ODR is not nearly as costly as the traditional process. There are no traveling fees or court fees, and resolution is reached well under the average time. As a result, you’re paying less in service fees for the arbitrator/mediator. For the average person, this might not seem like a big deal, but for lower-income individuals going through a dispute, it means they can work with high quality decision makers without worrying about finances[LC1] . As long as they can get access to a phone or computer with video conferencing capabilities, they have access to speedy dispute resolution.

In addition, Online Dispute Resolution  offers an AI mediator. The computer can look at the case and the proposed settlements and offer what it deems fair considering all variables. In this case, service fees can be cut out entirely and decisions can be made in a fraction of the time. Of course, AI Mediation is best for simpler cases where there are fewer facts to take into account.

Law firms who utilize ODR say that their clients are extremely happy with the results. Most often, they cite the relief that comes with dealing with disputes from the comfort of your own home. There’s no need to face the opposing party, and you can be at ease in an environment you are familiar with. There tend to be more concise meetings without emotional outbursts, and judgement is not clouded by fear or apprehension at being face-to-face. As a result, an agreement can be made in a few weeks to months and both parties can carry on with their lives. Justice is served more efficiently, and those involved do not need to draw out their trauma or frustration for any longer than necessary.

Although Online Dispute Resolution began with convenience in mind, it has become very clear that there are countless other benefits that come with it. As such, even as we move back to in-person court proceedings, we don’t foresee ODR disappearing any time soon. For more information about ODR, please visit https://resolvedisputes.com/. For additional information or to ask us a question, contact our team and we’ll respond promptly.