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Stuck In The Middle

You're jammed between a court and a hard place. Get free with third-party mediation.

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This story appears in the November 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

"See you in court!" yells the irate vendor just before slamming the door. The botched deal will cost both sides thousands of dollars to correct, and frustration has erupted into blame and anger. As you reach for the phone to call your lawyer, you think about the past lawsuits you've been embroiled in-hours of digging out documents for discovery, months of depositions and motions, stacks of briefs and counter-briefs, days of tension in court, thousands of dollars in legal fees, and all for what? There has to be a better way.

There is. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is growing nationwide, providing individuals and businesses with cheaper, faster ways to resolve disputes. The two major types of ADR are arbi-tration, in which parties hire private judges to decide their cases, and , in which neutral parties help work out solutions. The number of ADR cases submitted to the American Arbitration Association grew from 95,143 in 1998 to 140,188 in 1999. Compare those figures to roughly 45,000 cases per year in the mid-1980s. The association's case load for mediation grew 17.5 percent from 1998 to 1999, reflecting the rate of growth in recent years.

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