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Put it in Neutral

Next time you're in a dispute, don't litigate--mediate.

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This story appears in the January 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In the ordinary course of business, a lawsuit is the course of last resort. Litigation is expensive, time-consuming, mean-spirited and often unfair. Mediation offers a better way.

Mediation is a lot like negotiation, but with a moderator. The mediator is a neutral party who helps the disputants fashion their own settlement. Unlike a judge or a jury, a mediator cannot bind either party. Nonetheless, mediation is astonishingly effective. Studies show high satisfaction rates and that mediated settlements are more likely to hold than litigated ones. Some experts say mediation is successful 80 percent of the time. It's certainly cheaper and faster than going to court.

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