Early Neutral Evaluation
In a confidential session attended by parties and their attorneys, a neutral third party hears evidence and argument then gives the parties a non-binding assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. The evaluator, who is often a former judge or lawyer with special knowledge and expertise regarding the subject of the dispute, may assist the parties in settlement discussions.
Each side presents an abbreviated version of their case-in-chief to persons who have settlement authority. A judge or other third party may preside and assist in settlement negotiations, if requested. The goal is to fully inform all decision-makers, such as senior executives of corporations who may otherwise not be in position to acquire sufficient information.
Summary Jury Trial
A former judge or attorney with special knowledge and experience pertaining to the dispute presides over a trial before a voluntary jury. Each side presents an abbreviated version of their case-in-chief, usually relying on exhibits rather than live witnesses. The jury renders an advisory verdict. The parties and their attorneys may identify new reasons for settlement discussions or proceed to trial under the auspices of a State or Federal court.
In a hearing attended by parties and their attorneys, one or three arbitrators hear adversarial presentations then issue a decision, applying law to facts. The parties may accept the decision, in which case it becomes the judgment of court, or the parties may proceed to trial. Non-binding arbitration is usually scheduled after essential discovery is completed. The arbitration hearing is relatively formal but the rules of evidence may be relaxed, and the arbitrator has discretion to limit the number of witnesses and truncate their testimony.