Private matters should stay private.
That is especially so with disputes. Whether they are business or personal or employment-related disputes, differences between family members or neighbours or issues within organizations, they should stay private and yet be resolved quickly, fairly and at a reasonable cost.
As anyone who has tried to use the public courts to resolve a dispute knows, court cases are the opposite: the court dockets are crowded, expensive, painfully slow and very public. It is often said, for good reason, that ‘nobody wins’ in court.
Private dispute resolution is more economical, much faster and yet it carries the full force of the law.
Under provincial legislation, private arbitration rulings have the same legal effect as a court order – and they can be registered and enforced like any order of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, without the expense and delay. Private arbitrations proceedings are relatively informal and they are confidential by law. There are no spectators, no media and no public airing of the dispute. The parties can have lawyers if they wish, but it is not required.
Disputes that are resolved by mediation result in written agreements that are enforceable as binding contracts that can also be registered with the Supreme Court.
There is a combination of mediation and arbitration, called a Med-Arb, that is becoming very popular in which the arbitrator first attempts to bring the parties to a mediated settlement, but if, and only if, that fails the arbitrator will make a binding decision.
You may wonder why people still go to court when private dispute resolution is available. The answer, in many cases, is that they don’t. Businesses of all sizes, sophisticated individuals and even government agencies these days resolve their disputes privately by arbitration or mediation, without going to court. Most modern commercial contracts (including some public sector contracts) have a ‘mediation-arbitration clause’ that explicitly requires the parties to use these avenues instead of going to court. And, of course, labour grievances and bargaining impasses have been settled outside the court system, exclusively by arbitration, for many, many decades.
If your lawyer has not discussed private arbitration or mediation with you before embarking on tedious and expensive litigation, you may want to ask why that is.
I am available to act as a neutral mediator and arbitrator throughout Atlantic Canada, in both labour and non-labour cases, at reasonable rates.