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How to resolve a partnership dispute without trial

On Behalf of | Jun 19, 2023 | Business Disputes

Litigation tends to be costly, time consuming and stressful in the way it leans into the adversarial mindset. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a way to resolve disputes without going that route. ADRs are effective processes that afford a higher degree of privacy, and are faster, cheaper, and generally more pleasant.

Not all cases are supported well by ADRs, but many are, and there are different approaches available. The following ADRS are available in California.


Arbitration resembles a trial in that the two sides present evidence to a neutral party, the arbitrator, who makes a decision. If the parties have agreed to a binding decision, they’re bound by it and it cannot be appealed. If they’ve entered into nonbinding arbitration, going to trial afterward remains open to them.


With mediation, the opposing parties control the outcome of the case, a win that arbitration doesn’t provide.

A trained mediator may caucus with the two parties privately and confidentially and/or together, and will steadfastly not take sides. The mediator’s role is to facilitate full communication and clarity, helping the disputants reach a meeting ground.

If talks come to an impasse, trial is a next step. But if the parties reach a settlement, it’s an agreement they both own. It has a good chance, then, of standing the test of time.


The parties can work with a retired judge who hears their case the way an arbitrator would. The judge, though, uses normal trial court procedures, and the decision has the status of a real court judgment.

This differs from real court in that it’s private and because the judge is retired, it’s relatively easy to get on his calendar.

Summary jury trial

This is litigation-lite. It’s a small jury, short opening statements and evidence summaries, brief rebuttals and then closing arguments.

It lasts a day, maybe two.

After the jury verdict is returned (which unbeknownst to the jury, is not binding), the parties enter into settlement talks. The win here is the value of jury feedback, very useful when the two parties have quite different perceptions of the strength of their case.


This is part mediation/settlement/adjudication. A panel of three is convened: one neutral advisor and one executive from each side to the dispute. The panel hears the case and is free to question the presenters from both sides.

Then, having received comments from the neutral advisor, the two executives head into settlement talks.

ADR is an evolving landscape. These methods are malleable and can be adjusted to suit the case at hand. The methods adopted are constrained only by the limitations of the parties’ ingenuity and their commitment to the process.