The Pursuit of Truce

By Heather | July 7, 2011

To a hammer, the entire world is nails. As an attorney, I often tell people this when asked for cocktail party legal advice. “Do I have a claim for this?” “Can’t I sue for that?” To a clever lawyer, all disputes can be solved through a lawsuit. Thus, nails.

The truth is that an answer as to your legal “rights” depends a lot upon whom you ask. The law is open to interpretation based on the facts. This inconsistency drives people crazy. It drives some of us lawyers crazy, too. The legal issue, however, is only part of a lawsuit.

Too often, we forget the larger picture of what we really want or need when faced with a legal issue. Harping only on the legal issue can lead to a real mess in people’s lives, ignoring what is best for you, your family, your business or your property. Good lawyers weigh the uncertainty and the practical realities of litigation (cost, stress, business disruption, etc.) and include options related to “alternative dispute resolution” or “ADR” in their advice to clients.

ADR is simply lawyer-speak for “let’s stay out of court and pursue a truce.” It comes up in arbitration with professional athletes and in mediation with celebrity estates. But, you don’t have to be a celebrity to use ADR, a little known secret.

People use mediation or arbitration to privately resolve disputes, either during litigation or without litigation. Why? With respect to mediation, which involves facilitated negotiations, the process is cheaper than litigation, less public, voluntary, done on your schedule, and you don’t have to pay to hang out with lawyers forever. Win, Win, Win, Win, and Double Win.

In family disputes or issues, such as divorce, same-sex family dissolution, and elder care/probate disputes, mediation is particularly effective. Due to the emotions and relationships involved, mediation is well-suited to positive and successful resolution. Families have the freedom to craft workable, ongoing solutions, with or without attorneys, and move forward without exhausting their financial resources or being placed at the mercy of the courts’ processes. Thus, the pursuit of truce through ADR may be preferable to becoming a nail.

To learn more about ADR, go to or and look for future articles on how ADR can be effective in specific areas of dispute or disagreement.

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