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A Layman’s Guide to Dispute Resolution

At its heart, dispute resolution is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the means of resolving a dispute that’s occurred between two (or more) parties.

There are four dispute resolution methods. The first three methods don’t involve a court. This makes them alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods.

Meditation and arbitration, discussed below, are forms of ADR. Arbitration is a common choice of dispute resolution. The International Court of Arbitration (ICC Court) even registered its 25,000th case in December 2019.

Read on to learn about the dispute resolution methods and how they work.


This method is the cheapest way to resolve a dispute. It’s always a good idea to try negotiation first.

The parties involved meet and discuss the dispute. As part of the discussions, they try to resolve the dispute themselves. They can negotiate compensation or remedial works as and when necessary.

This is helpful because it gives the parties greater control over the resolution. These are flexible discussions that can cover a range of issues. If it’s successful, then the parties involved don’t have to pay court or mediation fees.


Mediation is cheaper than litigation but more formal than negotiation. The involved parties work with a mediator to find a resolution.

The meditator is an impartial, independent person. They’re not there to make decisions, but rather to facilitate the discussion. This can help to guide the discussion if negotiation has failed.

Both sides should sign a resolution agreement to make the resolution clear. This agreement is legally binding.


This method is more formal than meditation but also more flexible than litigation. The parties involved provide details or evidence to an arbitrator.

The arbitrator then provides a decision about the resolution. You can often find a specialist arbitrator who has expertise in your industry or specific issue.

It’s a cheaper dispute resolution process than litigation. The process also saves time since you don’t need to wait for a court timetable for a hearing.


Litigation is the most formal process that works within the civil legal system. The court controls the process, making it more time-consuming and complicated to follow.

It’s a good idea to use a solicitor with experience in dispute resolution law, such as This means you know the processes are being handled properly.

This is the most expensive option. More professionals are involved in the process. It’s also not a private process. If privacy is an issue, arbitration is a better choice.

Choosing the Right Dispute Resolution Method

Before you choose a method, check the contract between the involved parties. Many contracts include a dispute resolution clause. This will detail which method you should use.

Unless the contract specifies otherwise, try to resolve the dispute using non-litigation methods first. Courts don’t favor parties who go to court when other options were available first.

Get your legal representative to check your contract before you choose a method. The time scale and cost of each method can be a contributing factor to which one you choose.

Keen to run your business in a dispute-free way? Check out our business articles for more tips and advice.