The coronavirus pandemic has been a stress test on the American legal system, shutting down courthouses, forcing judges to postpone long-standing trials and pushing lawyer-client meetings onto Zoom calls.

The results have been clear: traditional legal routes of resolving business partnership disputes are simply too difficult and costly to continue during the pandemic.

Fortunately, going to court is not the only option. During the pandemic, many business owners have taken advantage of alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation, and now that they’ve seen it in action, that growth will likely continue in the future.

Traditionally mediation has been a voluntary process involving a third-party neutral who helps the parties analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their case and facilitate discussion in an attempt to resolve their dispute.

Judges have long promoted mediation as an efficient and effective way to resolve business disputes. Unlike a typical court case, mediation allows for complex civil disputes to be streamlined, as the mediator zeroes in on key factual and legal issues and steers the parties away from potential trouble spots that may be hindering a resolution.

In many courts, some type of mediation of business disputes is offered for parties to consider while they await trial, and it’s long been used by those who grew impatient. As cases have dragged on during the pandemic, it’s become a lot more popular.

But in those cases mediation was voluntary. With the court system still facing restrictions and a growing backlog, it’s possible that mandatory mediation will become the norm in many areas and require parties to participate in an alternative dispute resolution process just before or after filing a lawsuit.

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