Arbitration is a means of resolving disputes that can be used as a substitute for litigating in court. Arbitration can be less expensive and yield a quicker result than filing a lawsuit. The downsides of arbitration are there is less opportunity to obtain discovery of information needed to prove or defend the case; the rules of evidence that apply in court are unavailable; and cases are tried before private individuals who are not sitting judges and whose rulings are final and cannot usually be appealed if the client loses.
Arbitration is a good option if a client knows the nature of his or her dispute and can be advised by counsel before agreeing to arbitrate rather than litigate. But involuntary, forced arbitration that compels people to give up their right to sue in court should be outlawed. Many companies put mandatory arbitration clauses in their consumer contracts, on their websites or in their mobile apps that courts are required under current law to enforce, even if they force the customers to waive their right to sue as a class and, thereby, deprive them of any ability to recover from the company. Alex Schmidt is a leading authority on arbitration law. He has written about and litigated over forced arbitration. He has also successfully conducted arbitrations for clients who agreed to them.
Mediation, unlike arbitration, is not a substitute for suing in court. It is a method of trying to settle a difficult issue by using a private mediator who is specially trained to help parties reach agreements. Mediators usually do not make binding rulings on legal questions. The parties remain free to litigate their case if the attempt to mediate does not result in a settlement. Alex Schmidt has participated in many mediations and recommends them to clients if it might enable them to avoid the expense of a trial or arbitration.