Mediation, litigation, arbitration. What’s the difference?


When it comes to dispute resolution, there are now a number of processes that parties in disputes can choose from in order to try to resolve their disagreements. In practice, the parties to a dispute can either file a lawsuit in court, or they can pursue an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method such as arbitration or mediation.

Understandably, it can be difficult to know which process is best for your situation. This article offers some guidance and gives an overview of these three methods of dispute resolution.


Litigation is a process commonly used for the resolution of disputes by means of court proceedings and a final judgement. A wide range of disputes can be resolved through the High Court or county courts, but certain cases, such as employment related disputes, may only be determined by an Employment Tribunal.

Generally, litigation is a process which any business will want to avoid. It can be as expensive as it is time consuming, and there are often much more efficient ways to resolve your dispute out of court. Alternative dispute resolution, including arbitration and mediation, are becoming increasingly popular for businesses and individuals alike.


The arbitration process takes place outside of the court system through an arbitral body. An arbitrator, who is either chosen by the parties involved or by an appointing body, determines the dispute by acting as an impartial decision maker. The decision made is usually confidential and binding.

Arbitration is generally faster, less expensive, and more confidential than litigation because it is carried out in private, and therefore is often the preferred route for the parties involved.


Mediation is another non-court method which is flexible, voluntary and confidential. A neutral third-party—a ‘mediator’— helps both parties to resolve their disputes by facilitating their discussion. The specially trained mediator does not take a side nor issue a decision. Instead, the mediator works with both parties, either together or separately, to help arrive at a negotiated settlement.

Although mediation is not legally binding, a final agreement between the two parties, reached at mediation, can be enforced as a contract. If a settlement cannot be arrived at through mediation, then they can still seek dispute resolution through arbitration or litigation.

Expert legal advice

At Hart Brown Solicitors we understand that commercial and individual disputes can be distracting and time consuming so it is important that they are resolved as quickly as possible. By offering advice which is straightforward, practical and cost effective we will strive to achieve the best result we can for you in the circumstances.

Whilst we will always take cases to trial when necessary, at the same time we always promote early settlement of cases ‘out of court’ including by mediation where that is both sensible and possible.

To speak to a specialist solicitor about resolving your dispute contact us now by calling, emailing or requesting a call back from one of our expert dispute resolution lawyers.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.


Paul Grimwood

Partner & Accredited Mediator

Paul has extensive experience of dealing with a wide range of disputes focusing in particular on professional negligence, contentious trust and estate cases and Inheritance...

Paul Grimwood- Partner & Accredited Mediator

Partner & Accredited Mediator

Paul Grimwood

Paul has extensive experience of dealing with a wide range of disputes focusing in particular on professional negligence, contentious trust and estate cases and Inheritance Act claims where he acts for both claimants and defendants, trustees, executors and beneficiaries.

He is a member of the Professional Negligence Lawyers’ Association and the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists. He is also an ADR Group Accredited Mediator. Paul has, in the past, appeared on local radio as a “legal eagle” responding to listeners’ queries.

Passing his Law Society finals with First Class Honours Paul originally trained at Hart Brown. Having spent two years sharpening up his advocacy skills at another firm Paul returned to Hart Brown as a partner.

As one client put it: “I am very impressed with his thoroughness” and another: “A very professional service delivered in a very personal way”.

“With Hart Brown I had complete success with my claim against my former solicitor. At all stages I had the confidence to proceed based on the clear analysis and communication of my position. I have no hesitation in recommending Hart Brown and particularly Paul Grimwood”.