Corporate Counsel, Law Firms Cite Savings, Speed For Choosing Alternative Dispute (Mealey's)

Fri, Jul 20, 2007

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NEW YORK — Cost savings and the speed of conflict resolution are the top two reasons corporate counsel and private law firms choose alternative dispute resolution over trial, according to a survey by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution at its spring quarter meeting.

Among the 126 attorneys attending the April conference and responding to the survey, mediation is ranked as the most preferred form of alternative dispute resolution.

“The results of this survey confirm that mediation remains a dominant feature in the legal landscape,” institute Chief Executive Officer Kathleen A. Bryan is quoted saying in an April 24 press release announcing the findings.

The other forms in descending order of preference are: early case assessment, arbitration, multistep alternative dispute resolution clauses, internal alternative dispute resolution training and alternative dispute resolution training for clients.

The institute was founded in 1979 as the Center for Public Resources by corporate general counsel to provide resources for alternative dispute resolution.

Current Institute Board

The current board comprises representatives of the office of general counsel from General Electric Co., Nestle, ConocoPhillips, Danaher Corp, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., General Mills Inc., Newell Rubbermaid Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers, Schering-Plough and Zeughauser Group.

Law firms represented on the board are DLA Piper, Spenser Underhill Newmark, Heller Ehrman, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Debevoise Plimpton and the Law Offices of Charles B. Renfrew.

Among the findings of the survey of attorneys attending the April meeting is the chief reason among responding corporate counsel for not choosing arbitration to resolve conflicts is the risk of challenges and appeals. For independent law firms, the chief reason for not choosing arbitration is the result. Results were the second reason cited by corporate counsel in the survey.

Mediation Discloses Strategy

The top reason among corporate counsel for not choosing mediation was that the process discloses strategy followed closely by the time required. Independent law firms said the top reason for avoiding mediation is the appearance of weakness. The fear of disclosing strategy was a distant second for independent law firms responding to the survey.

Corporate counsel and independent law firms concur that the top two benefits of arbitration are finality and confidentiality.

Another finding is that nearly half the corporate counsel responding said they have begun tracking the results of alternative dispute resolution, which compares to private law firms saying 1 in 10 has begun to track the metric.

“With approximately 98 percent of cases settled before trial, it is evident that corporate counsel understands the value of the ADR tools available to them,” Bryan said. “More importantly, they actually use them. As a result, we are seeing an increase in the demand for research, information and training in commercial mediation and arbitration.”

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