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How we resolve our disputes

Entries in FINRA (3)

Wednesday
Feb032016

Electronic discovery and mediation

Recently, I attended a seminar sponsored by the American Bar Association and FINRA titled Utilizing Mediation to Navigate the Perils of Electronic Discovery in Arbitration. I have previously written about effect that the effort and cost of obtaining discovery from adverse parties has on litigation and prospects for settlement. Today, with increasing amounts of information being stored in electronic formats, the cost and effort of obtaining that information has soared. Frequently, the parties need to retain an IT specialist to search, find and interpret the records and data. In complex commercial and financial cases, especially when allegations of fraud are involved, the level of distrust between the parties makes settlement and discovery even more difficult. Judges and arbitrators do not like to wade through the reams of pleadings and documents that are often necessary to resolve disputes concerning electronically stored information (ESI). 

Enter the mediator. By focusing the parties’ attention on the specific issues, rather than on allegations of spoliation of evidence and threats of sanctions for discovery abuse, the mediator can help the parties devise a plan to allocate the costs and schedule the timing and manner of production of evidence, thereby maintaining confidentiality and credibility with the court or arbitration panel. A mediator familiar with the concepts of proportionality, privilege and data mapping can help the parties minimize the time, effort and expense they put into discovery. Thus, they can concentrate on prepartion of the case for trial or arbitration. After they obtain the information they feel they need, the parties might then return to mediation to fully evaluate their settlement options. 

It takes more time, effort and money to fully and properly prepare a case for trial or arbitration today than it did before the advent of ESI. The federal courts and FINRA (which supervises arbitration panels in many securities cases) have done much work lately to help the parties and the tribunals minimize the costs and time involved in resolving modern discovery disputes. Attorneys would serve their clients well by becoming adept at using mediation to relieve the parties and tribunals of most of these burdens. 

Sunday
Oct302011

Preparation

Mediators frequently complain that parties to mediation do not come sufficiently prepared to reach a settlement. But preparation is a two-way street. Mediators also need to prepare for each session. I prepare by reviewing any information sent to me by the parties, as well as reviewing my mediation training. Some of the things I have learned are recorded in my previous posts. Recently, I have read two excellent articles that help refresh me before each mediation encounter.

The first comes from FINRA’s current newsletter. (You don’t have to be FINRA arbitrator or mediator to subscribe.) The article contains nine tips for a successful mediation. One of those tips is to “be prepared,” but following all of the other tips is the best preparation.

The other article comes from the ABA and discusses 10 things lawyers love and hate about mediators. According to the author, one of the things lawyers love is when mediators prepare beforehand. Seems obvious, but again the other items listed in the article provide fertile ground for preparation by a mediator.

If you are a mediator and have any favorite lists that help you prepare for a mediation session, please leave a comment and let me and my readers know what they are.

Monday
Aug092010

Arbitration v. Mediation: Statistics

FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) administers both mediation and arbitration programs for securities brokers, agents, and customers.  Their recently reported statistics for the first part or 2010 show an increase of 106% in new filings for mediation and a decrease of 25% for arbitration.  New arbitration case filings still outnumber mediation requests by about 7 to 1.  FINRA also reports that 85% of mediation cases closed with a successful settlement, an increase of about 5% from historical FINRA mediation settlement rates due in part to a multi-case mediation coordinated by FINRA, which settled a large group of cases.  The average case turnaround time was 88 days.

Statistics like this are difficult to come by.  If anyone knows a good source for similar statistics in other arbitration and mediation programs, let me know.  Without such information, generalizations about filing trends and settlement rates are impossible to make.