Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyers

Sands Anderson dispute attorneys are experienced in many areas of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) throughout our numerous practice areas. Below is some information on our experience with these methods.


Arbitration is an alternative to resolving a dispute in court with a judge or a jury. In an arbitration, the legal dispute is submitted to an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators. The arbitrators hear evidence and render a binding decision in the matter, much like a judge would. The arbitrator's decision is enforceable in a court of law. Arbitration can only occur by agreement of the parties, usually by means of a provision in the parties' contract. Even if not included in a contract, the parties are free to agree after a dispute develops to submit the dispute to arbitration. A party cannot be compelled to participate in an arbitration if he has not expressly agreed to do so.

The advantages of arbitration are, among other things, that it is intended to be somewhat less formal, less expensive, and concluded more quickly than a trial in court. Also, it is generally possible to enlist arbitrators who have specialized knowledge in the area of the dispute. Arbitrators need not be attorneys.

The disadvantages include, among other things, that, while the arbitrator must follow the rules established for the arbitration, if any, he is not required to apply the law as would a trial judge. Additionally, the right to appeal an arbitration decision is extremely limited, meaning that the parties will be bound by the arbitrator's award, absent some serious error or fraud on the part of the arbitrator.

Our North Carolina and Virginia dispute attorneys routinely arbitrate a wide variety of legal disputes, whether arising from commercial transactions, securities dealings, construction projects or other business deals. Arbitrations are held before a wide variety of tribunals, including the National Association of Securities Dealers, the New York Stock Exchange, and the American Arbitration Association. In addition, our dispute attorneys are routinely asked to serve as arbitrators.

Arbitration can raise many important legal issues that require a thorough understanding of this area of the law. For more information, please contact any attorney in the practice area that best fits your dispute you need.


Sands Anderson dispute lawyers are actively involved in mediation, which is a popular and widely-used method for resolving disputes. Mediation is a voluntary process that uses a trained, neutral third-party to facilitate negotiations in order to resolve disputes and foster continued settlement discussions. The ultimate goal is to reach an agreed-upon resolution that is reduced to a binding contract known as a settlement agreement. The use of mediation as a method of alternative dispute resolution is increasing, and the advantages of mediation are well-recognized. These include:

(1) The parties remain in control of the outcome and can participate in creating the terms of any settlement agreement. The parties are free to walk away if they are not happy with the negotiations. They are not obligated to the settle the case at a mediation.

(2) By going through the mediation process, the principals involved most closely with the dispute will become much more familiar with the case, both from a factual and legal standpoint, and very likely will develop a better understanding of the risks attendant to the litigation, as well as a better appreciation of their opposing party's view of the case.

(3) Mediation is less costly than litigation, as mediation sessions are generally of shorter duration than are trials and other types of judicial hearings, and generally speaking less time is spent preparing for mediation than is spent preparing for a formal judicial proceeding. Additionally, mediation is often available relatively early in litigation, from a procedural and temporal standpoint.

(4) The mediator is neutral and well-trained, and often has experience with the actual issues in a particular case. The mediator comes to the mediation well-prepared and informed, with a singular focus on the case at hand, without a docket full of other matters that day. Often, the mediator has had the opportunity to review confidential submissions from each side participating in the mediation to bring the mediator "up to speed" on the facts, background information, issues, developments, and any settlement negotiations to date.

Court systems such as the Chesterfield Circuit Court and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division offer what are essentially free mediation services through an external mediation group of mediators in the case of the former (the Commonwealth Mediation Group), and in the case of the latter, through the United States Magistrate Judges, by referral. The parties pay their respective legal fees and costs in preparation and participation in the mediation, but they do not have to shoulder the expense of the mediator's preparation, travel, and participation in the mediation session, as is the case when a private mediation service is employed.

Our dispute lawyers have represented numerous individuals and companies in a variety of litigations in both state and federal courts which were ultimately resolved by agreement through mediation. For more information, please contact any attorney in the practice area you need.

Judicial Settlement Conferences

Federal Court

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia will refer the parties to a lawsuit to a United States Magistrate Judge for a Judicial Settlement Conference, that is, if the parties consent to same. The referral system is often set up as an "opt out" and the default is to refer to the matter to a Magistrate Judge unless the Court is otherwise informed by counsel.

This system is essentially free to the parties and strongly encouraged by the District Court Judges of the "Rocket Docket" as a means to clear some of the cases on a very heavy docket. The Magistrate Judges are familiar with recent jury findings and awards, local trends, evidentiary rulings, case law and arguments of counsel on substantive areas of law, and the proclivities of the District Courts in findings and opinions. As such, the Magistrate Judges are able to assist the parties in settlement conferences with the assessment of the risks of litigation, as well as with the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. Most often, confidential, ex parte settlement conference memoranda are submitted to the Magistrate Judges in advance of the settlement conference sessions so that the Magistrate Judge is informed and educated on the substance and nature of the dispute in advance of the session. The parties independently contact the Magistrate Judge assigned to the case to schedule their session.

If the matter does not settle at a session, often it will be continued and the Magistrate Judge will resume facilitating settlement negotiations with the parties individually and/or collectively. This can span into one or more additional sessions, if needed. However, should the matter not settle, the Magistrate Judge reports only to the presiding District Court Judge that the matter did not settle and needs to be set for trial. All matters remain confidential from the session and there is no admonishment from the Court for attempted, but failed settlement conferences. Most of the Magistrate Judges boast settlement rates as high as 70-80% on the cases which are referred to them for settlement.

State Court

The Supreme Court of Virginia has instituted its own Judicial Settlement Conference Program for cases pending in Virginia Circuit Courts. Under this Program, the parties may request that the court order the case be referred to one of the settlement conference judges who participate in the Program. All of these judges are retired Circuit Court judges who have, in addition to their many years of experience as trial judges, received mediation and settlement conference skills training provided by the Virginia Supreme Court. The benefits of this Program are that there is no cost to the parties and they can receive the highly skilled services of an experienced retired judge to facilitate a settlement.

Our dispute attorneys are experienced in leading our individual and corporate clients through the federal and state court settlement conference programs, the Magistrate Judge referral process, and in particular, in achieving winning positive results for our clients short of protracted and costly litigation in the federal and state court systems. For more information, please contact any attorney in the practice area you need.

The dispute lawyers of Sands Anderson serve clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic from our offices in North Carolina and Virginia.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyers welcome the opportunity to work with you in creating solutions best suited to your needs. Benefit from our experience. Contact the Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyers of Sands Anderson through our online form.

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