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Arbitration, making it happen

The Baltimore County Council approved a measure Monday night that allows county employees to resolve labor disputes through binding arbitration.

Police officers and firefighters have been able to resolve labor disputes through arbitration for some time; the new policy will allow general county employees, including nurses and 911 dispatchers, to resolve salary and pension disputes through arbitration. The measure also allows employees to utilize nonbinding arbitration for disputes about employment conditions.

Alternative methods of dispute resolution are receiving increasing attention lately. There are many reasons to choose arbitration over litigation:

— It’s usually cheaper and faster than litigation

— It’s touted as a less adversarial method of dispute resolution

— It requires more collaboration than litigation

— The proceedings are also completely private, which can be great for highly-publicized disputes

Litigation really isn’t the best solution for all disputes; it’s routine for attorney bills to exceed the amount being contested by the parties. And this doesn’t only apply to small claims. In fact, some have argued that arbitration is the only way to resolve some major disputes, such as labor issues in professional sports.

Maryland law schools and courts are also recognizing the value of ADR. Law schools are offering courses and certification for law students interested in the field,  and there is an ADR program in every county in Maryland.

In fact, arbitration programs, particularly those within law firms, are experiencing growth that is expected to continue. In this tough market , having some familiarity or certification in ADR can help law students get in the door to law firms and more rounded litigators.