In corporate disputes, settlement often comes only after adversarial posturing, escalating conflict, damaged relationships, and expenditure of too much time and money. And after all that, nobody may be particularly happy with the result. Although everyone involved in a dispute might like to escape the litigation trap, everyone may feel stuck in defensive litigation postures that keep them trapped.

The American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution established the Planned Early Dispute Resolution Task Force to promote planned early dispute resolution (PEDR) by businesses and their lawyers. Last year, the Task Force developed a User Guide, which was co-sponsored by the American Arbitration Association, International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution, and Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service. This article is adapted from the ‘Task Force User Guide’, available on the ‘Resources’ page of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution website.

Corporations can be most effective by using PEDR as a risk management system to prevent problems from turning into disputes and, when disputes do arise, to take control of them at the earliest possible stage. By using a PEDR approach, corporations can maintain healthy business relationships, keep focused on core business activities, control litigation risks, limit litigation time and expense, and achieve their highest priorities. A comprehensive PEDR system includes: (i) general plans for preventing and resolving disputes; (ii) ‘early warning systems’ for potential disputes; (iii) prompt assessment of disputes; and (iv) early dispute resolution procedures.

Apr-Jun 2014 issue

Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution