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Mediation vs. Trial

Mediation and trial are two processes available for resolving a pending lawsuit. In certain situations, mediation may be available as an option to resolve a dispute before a lawsuit is filed. More commonly, mediation is an alternative to continuing on to trial as litigation progresses, either at the request of the court or by agreement of the parties. While parties are often represented by lawyers in both mediation and litigation, the processes and resolutions of each option are distinct. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each process as it applies to your situation can help you make the best decision for your case.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a formal negotiation process used to resolve a dispute by providing parties a chance to come together and collaborate to attempt a resolution. Mediation is voluntary and private and gives the parties some control over the mediator and the venue for the negotiation. A mediator is a third-party participant who represents neither party nor decides the case; instead, the mediator moderates a meeting or meetings between the parties to assist them in coming to an agreement to resolve the dispute.

Disputes that use mediation often revolve around questions of liability or the division of money in a particular case. Outcomes may include a settlement agreement that resolves the issue or an agreement that the case will not settle and should continue with another resolution option. With mediation, there is no guaranteed result, and a timeline for resolution can be hard to gauge.


  • Often much quicker than waiting for trial and a possible appeal
  • Cost of mediation, attorneys’ fees, and mediator’s fees are often far less than the cost of preparing for trial
  • Provides opportunity for creative solutions and equitable results
  • Parties select the mediator and control the outcome
  • Neither party can be forced to settle the dispute
  • Mediation is confidential


  • Unstructured process that relies on the parties to come to agreement
  • Does not guarantee result
  • Timeline for resolution can be difficult to gauge

What Is a Trial?

Trial is the process of resolving a dispute wherein both parties must appear in court, a judge or jury hears both sides of the case, and the decisionmaker makes a decision on how the issue will be resolved. Trial provides a resolution along with a more structured timeline; however, litigation and a subsequent trial often costs much more money, particularly if the dispute is lengthy.


  • Process is more formal and structured
  • Evidence may be limited based on evidentiary rules
  • The process is unilateral; it does not require agreement by the other party
  • Established precedents gives parties a certain level of predictability
  • Unless appealed, the outcome is final


  • Parties have no choice in the decisionmaker
  • Is often expensive and time-consuming; can take a year or more
  • Litigious filings and disputes are public record

Is Mediation or Trial Right for Your Case? TLGNWA Can Help

Whichever path to resolution is best for your circumstance, we can help. Protecting your interests is not only your business – it is ours as well. The Law Group of Northwest Arkansas PLLC’s licensed mediator, Sandra Grizzle, is here to help if you have questions about mediation and if it could be a good fit for you. For more information, give us a call at 479-316-3760 or contact our office for help, today.

Disclaimer: The Law Group of Northwest Arkansas PLLC (TLGNWA) provides general information about a variety of legal issues on this website as a public service. Information contained herein should not be considered legal advice on any specific matter. The use of information and reference links contained in this website do not constitute contractual, de facto, implied or any other form of attorney-client privilege or relationship. TLGNWA is not responsible for the use of information, forms, links, or documents contained in this website.

Due to the frequency and speed of changing laws, no guarantee is made as to the current validity or applicability of the information contained herein. Though we try to update information often, we recommend that readers with questions investigate current law or contact TLGNWA directly through our contact form or by calling (479) 334-3411.