Mediation vs. Arbitration

Posted:  Mar 10, 2020

Our professionals at Stevens & Company have witnessed many individuals who do not understand the difference between mediation and arbitration. Both are a means of conflict resolution but when you compare and contrast the two, it becomes clear how they are very distinct legal procedures. 

Moreover, the two methods of resolving conflicts have different objectives.


The mediation process is non-binding and the mediator does not in fact decide an outcome for the people involved. A mediator is more like a facilitator of the discussions that benefits both sides in a disagreement. Furthermore, neither party is required to agree on anything by the end of mediation. Rather, mediation offers a safe and confidential space to resolve and discuss a conflict.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of mediation regarding business is “a process by which someone tries to end a disagreement by helping the two sides to talk about and agree on a solution.” Thereby, a mediator helps individuals work through a difficult issue to agree on a solution satisfactory to both parties.

Mediation can occur over several sessions or may only require one, depending on the complexity of the dispute. This makes mediation much more convenient than a court case. Indeed, the ultimate goal of mediation is to arrive at a mutual resolution.

Note that a final decision reached in mediation is legally binding and valid, often stated in a signed agreement between both parties.

Mediation may be court ordered (as with arbitration) and the court may appoint a mediator if parties cannot choose one amongst themselves.


Arbiters may be selected by individuals or a court. Unlike mediation, the arbiter has the legal authority to settle a dispute upon the agreement of both parties. Like a judge, the arbiter carefully considers and scrutinizes the evidence presented. He or she may then determine liability after weighing each side and considering relevant laws and policies.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of arbitration regarding law is “a process in which an independent person makes an official decision that ends in a legal disagreement without the need for it to be solved in court.”

Comparable to mediation, arbitration is the use of a neutral third party to hear the dispute. Both hearings are private and confidential. Arbitration can also be used as an alternative to expensive, lengthy legal proceedings.

However, arbitration can be a more formal process than mediation. Both parties are given the opportunity to present evidence and arguments, including witness testimony, to the arbitrator or panel of arbitrators since they may choose more than one. In this sense, arbitration resembles a judicial hearing.

In the end, litigation may result if mediation or arbitration sessions prove unsuccessful. However, mediation is a proven process that saves time and money. It also preserves the well-being of many people by avoiding a stressful court appearance.

No matter whether you choose mediation or arbitration, our office can assist you in coming to a respectful and satisfying conclusion to a dispute.

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