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Domestic Arbitration & ADR

Domestic Arbitration

Many UK commercial and property contracts contain an arbitration clause, providing a confidential way of resolving disputes by an independent third party acting as a private judge. Even where there is no arbitration clause, parties may agree that it is preferable to go to arbitration rather than to court. Domestic arbitrations are governed by the Arbitration Act 1996, which gives the parties much scope to shape the process in a way which will best address the issues between them.

Our barristers appear in court in matters relating to arbitration proceedings, for example on applications to stay court proceedings pending an arbitration or to appeal or challenge awards.

Expert Determination

As an alternative to arbitration, parties may agree to put their dispute to an independent expert for decision. They usually agree that the expert’s determination will be final and binding on them, or final and binding “save for manifest error”. This can be a swift way of getting an issue resolved without the need for lengthy court proceedings.

Our barristers act as independent experts in disputes about the law (including those about the meaning of a contract or transactional document). Alternatively, where a dispute about a technical matter is being resolved by an expert in another discipline – for example, where a Chartered Surveyor is acting as independent expert on a valuation issue – our barristers can act as legal adviser (sometimes called “legal assessor”) to that expert. They also act as advocates in expert determinations, advising on evidence and procedure and preparing written or oral submissions.

Accredited Mediators

Mediation is an effective way of resolving any kind of disputes without the need to go to court. It’s a process which is often considered a faster and more cost effective alternative to the courts, and is becoming an ever more increasing choice of resolution for conflicting parties. Mediation involves an independent third party - a mediator - who helps both sides come to an agreement and it’s a voluntary process which will only take place if both parties agree.

We appreciate that different skills and priorities are often necessary to bring about a successful outcome through mediation. We currently have a number of accredited and experienced mediators at Wilberforce, who have dealt with a variety of disputes across the full range of our core areas.

Early Neutral Evaluation

Early neutral evaluation is a non-binding form of dispute resolution, by which the parties agree to get an initial “sense-check” from an independent third party with expertise in the relevant field. Whilst it has been used in the field of commercial disputes for some time, there is a growing recognition of the potential benefits of early neutral evaluation in other fields. The parties get a chance to know whether they are on the right track at a relatively early stage, before large sums are expended on fully preparing all the evidence which will be needed in court. The evaluation is not binding and the parties are free to disregard it, but many find that it helps focus minds on the realities of litigation and the likelihood of success, making it easier to reach a sensible settlement out of court.
Our barristers are willing to act as early neutral evaluators in their specialist areas of practice.