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Comparing the Roles of Arbitrators and Mediators

Lisa M. Nousek, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP, received her JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. As a commercial lawyer, Lisa M. Nousek has experience with, and understands the importance of, the use of both arbitration and mediation as alternatives to traditional litigation.

Arbitration and mediation are legal procedures that share the objective of finding a solution that satisfies both sides. Though there are a few similarities between arbitration and mediation processes, there are also a number of key differences.

The primary difference involves the role of an arbitrator compared to that of a mediator. An arbitrator can be viewed as a judge in that he or she retains final say in matters, with both sides providing evidence and testimony in hopes of securing a resolution in their favor. In many ways, an arbitration can be seen as a less formal version of a trial.

A mediator, on the other hand, acts as a neutral third party who assumes a role more comparable to a negotiator than a judge. While an arbitration can have a legally binding solution despite protests from one side, a mediation can end only when both sides have agreed on terms. Mediators are valued for their ability to facilitate communications and help find common ground between both sides.


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