One of the challenges of building a private conflict resolution business is that parties often expect mediation to be free because the courts and several community organizations offer the process pro bono, or for free. While it is true that some courts, such as Family Court, the Commercial Division, and Small Claims Court, have court-mandated alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs built into their systems, they certainly aren’t free to the parties for a variety of reasons.
When choosing a process for resolving your workplace dispute, its important to consider the administrative expenses of court action. These fees are not mandatory in ADR. Court action is not required for pre-litigation, informal resolution. This option could save you substantial amounts of time, money, energy, and more. Below is a discussion of the costs you might not realize you’re agreeing to when you choose litigation.
Filing Fees: Paying for Court Intervention
In New York County, starting a lawsuit requires purchasing an Index Number from the courts for $210.00. This will be the reference number you must use on all your court filings. Small Claims cases might appear less expensive, ranging from $15.00 to $20.00, but even these fees add up. You’ll need to cover the costs of serving the Summons and Complaint ($85.00 to $95.00), and you’ll probably need to pay for legal assistance to draft your Complaint ($200.00 and $800.00, unless you qualify for free services from a local law clinic or a contingency fee structure).
Access to Justice is a common discussion topic for lawyers and bar associations. Yet the solution isn’t necessarily computer technology, artificial intelligence, legislation, or more litigation. It might be pre-litigation dispute resolution services.
- Sample Filing Fees: $595.00
Discovery: Gathering the Evidence
Courts rely on evidence to make informed decisions. Whether it’s documents, testimony, photographs, or expert opinions, evidence is at the core of legal proceedings. Gathering this evidence involves significant time and financial investments. For instance, deposition testimony alone can cost between $500.00 and $1,000.00 per party, excluding attorney fees for cross-examination. If Motions to Compel are necessary to secure those depositions or other disclosure of evidence, be prepared to spend an additional $1,000.00 or more for each motion appearance. There might also be administrative and legal fees to issue subpoenas and otherwise gather records from non-parties, such as doctors’ offices. This phase alone can easily tally up to $2,500.00 and take a year of your valuable time.
Even after all this investment, you might not be close to discussing a resolution in court. In the fortunate event that you get to that point, court-assigned mediators provide three hours of “free” service, after which they charge a fee, typically $300.00 per hour, if your case isn’t resolved within that brief window.
- Sample Discovery Fees: $4,500.00
Intangible Costs: The Emotional Toll of Litigation
As I explored in my course, Litigation Survival Skills: A Client Perspective, litigation often accompanies some of life’s most distressing events. Personal injuries, health issues, job loss, or financial upheaval can all intertwine with court cases, amplifying the psychological toll. Courts, however, are not inherently equipped to address the emotional dimensions of disputes. Even when the verdict favors a party, it may still feel empty or serve as only a temporary win. The toll on relationships, privacy, and self-confidence can be substantial, leading to a sense of loss, even in victory.
A Better Way: Private Conflict Resolution Services
While court-mandated mediation aims to minimize costs for parties, courts, and taxpayers, a better solution exists for the majority of cases. By turning to private conflict resolution services for your business, consumer, contract, employment, family, or other relationship disputes, you can save on court fees, attorney expenses, discovery costs, and protect your privacy, confidence, and relationships.
In today’s ever-evolving legal landscape, it’s crucial to look beyond the surface to understand the true costs of court-mandated mediation. For risk managers, CEOs, funeral directors, small business owners, and licensed professionals, private conflict resolution can offer not only substantial financial savings but also a more efficient, empathetic, and tailored approach to dispute resolution.