Arbitration or Litigation: Advising Client in Choosing the Optimal Dispute Resolution Approach

As experienced lawyers, we understand that advising clients on the best dispute resolution mechanism to include in their contracts can be a complex and critical task. The choice of dispute resolution method can significantly impact the outcome of any potential legal dispute, making it essential to carefully consider the specific circumstances of each transaction.


The Three Primary Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Before delving into the specifics of advising clients in various situations, it is important to briefly review the three primary dispute resolution mechanisms: litigation, mediation, and arbitration.


1. Litigation

Traditional courtroom litigation is typically the most formal and adversarial option. Legal disputes are resolved through a judge following established court procedures.

2. Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding process where a neutral third party (mediator)facilitates negotiations between the parties. It can be less time-consuming and more cost-effective than litigation, making it a suitable option for parties seeking to preserve a business relationship. The outcome is typically a mutually agreed-upon settlement.

3. Arbitration

Arbitration is a private, binding process where an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators make a decision after considering evidence and arguments from both parties. Arbitration can be faster and more flexible than litigation, and it allows for greater confidentiality.

The chosen arbitrator(s) can have expertise in the specific subject matter of the dispute.


Factors to Consider When Advising Clients

Now, let us explore how to advise clients on selecting the best dispute resolution mechanism based on the nature of the transaction:


1.    Transaction Type

Litigation may be suitable for high stakes matters where precedent and public record are important.

Mediation is effective in disputes involving ongoing relationships, such as business partnerships, where parties want to maintain a working relationship.

Arbitration is often preferred for international transactions, as it can offer neutrality and enforceability in multiple jurisdictions.

2.   Speed and Cost

Consider the client's time and budget constraints. Litigation can be time-consuming and costly, while mediation and arbitration can be more efficient and cost-effective alternatives.

3.   Confidentiality

If confidentiality is a concern, arbitration or mediation may be preferable, as court proceedings are generally public, while arbitration and mediation can remain confidential.

4.   Expertise

In cases where specialized knowledge is essential, such as complex technical or industry-specific disputes, arbitration allows parties to select arbitrators with expertise in the subject matter.

5.   Binding vs. Non-binding

Mediation is non-binding, allowing parties to explore solutions without commitment. Arbitration and litigation result in binding decisions, providing finality.


Incorporating Dispute Resolution Mechanisms into Contracts

When drafting contracts, it is crucial to specify the chosen dispute resolution mechanism. Here's how to do it effectively:


1.    Clearly Define the Mechanism

Specify whether litigation, mediation, or arbitration will be used in the event of a dispute. Outline the procedures and rules that will govern the chosen method.

2.   Designate the Jurisdiction

For litigation, specify the jurisdiction and court where any legal proceedings will take place. For arbitration, indicate the arbitral institution, rules, and the seat of arbitration.

3.   Select Mediators or Arbitrators

If opting for mediation or arbitration, specify the process for selecting mediators or arbitrators, including any qualifications or expertise requirements.

4.   Define Applicable Laws

State which laws will govern the contract and the dispute resolution process.

5.   Consider Multi-Tiered Clauses

Multi-tiered clauses can provide for negotiation, mediation, and arbitration in a stepwise approach before proceeding to litigation.



Advising clients on the appropriate dispute resolution mechanism to include in contracts is a crucial aspect of a lawyer's role. Additionally, drafting contracts with well-defined dispute resolution clauses is essential to ensure that both parties are on the same page and can efficiently navigate any potential disputes that may arise.