Dispute resolution scheme a good option for small companies

I applaud the Government for promoting Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and providing small organisations with viable options for dispute resolution.

Under the ADR, parties in dispute can choose to undergo mediation to settle the conflict.

In situations where mediation has failed, neutral evaluation is the next best choice if they want to avoid the expensive and often prolonged and stressful path of litigation.

At this stage, the parties get a chance to present and counter-argue claims with a neutral evaluator who has expert knowledge to evaluate the case and can submit a binding judgment.

The process can be customised to the clients' needs and can be settled within two to four months, instead of 12 to 18 months in the civil court system. Less preparation work is needed as well, compared to going for a trial, which also means lower legal fees.

For small organisations, this is a more viable alternative.

But there are also some obstacles to this.

Both disputing parties must consent to the process.

Lawyers may also ask for voluminous discoveries and propose a long list of witnesses for cross examination, thereby inflating the legal fees and eroding the cost benefits of neutral evaluation.

In such a case, clients may be better off seeking litigation in court.

Lawyers who recommend low-cost neutral evaluation procedures to clients should be given recognition for their services, so more potential clients can seek them for their experience and knowledge.

Perhaps a directory of such lawyers could be compiled by ADR providers.

In this way, using ADR options will gain popularity and help to reduce pressure on the judicial system.

Vijayan Nambiar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline 'Dispute resolution scheme a good option for small companies'. Print Edition | Subscribe