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23 Alternatives to court

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1. Introduction

2. What alternatives are there to court?

3. Do I need a lawyer to use alternative dispute resolution?

4. How do I decide whether to use an alternative dispute resolution scheme?

5. How do alternative dispute resolution schemes work?

6. Mediation and conciliation

7. Adjudication and arbitration

8. Grievance and complaints procedure

9. Litigation

Litigation (taking a case to a court or tribunal) often ends in a settlement (agreement) before the final hearing. However, if a settlement can’t be reached, an independent person or a group of people (for example, a judge, referee or tribunal) hears arguments from both sides and then makes a judgment. Unlike most alternative dispute resolution processes, in litigation the decision is made public and hearings can often be reported on (and even watched by the public). You can sometimes appeal against a judgment made through litigation, though this depends on the type of litigation, and the reason for your appeal.

Litigation can be used for a range of problems. Two examples are using the ‘small claims track’ for problems with goods and services and an employment tribunal for problems at work.

Litigation for problems with goods and services

For most consumer complaints, you can use the ‘small claims track’. This is a way of dealing with small claims (for less than £5,000) through the courts. The procedure is quite informal and you are normally expected to put your own case. If you use a lawyer, you won’t be able to recover their costs.

For more about dealing with consumer problems, see the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet ‘Problems with Goods and Services’.

Litigation for problems at work

If you have a problem at work, you could try and sort it out using Acas conciliation or mediation (see ‘Mediation for problems at work’). If that doesn’t work, you can go to an employment tribunal. However, a tribunal can only:

  • make your employer pay you compensation; or
  • recommend (but not force) your employer to give you your job back (if you have lost it).

Acas can tell you and your employer your legal rights and give you a view of what you could expect to happen at an employment tribunal hearing. But remember that there are strict time limits for using an employment tribunal, and these apply whether or not you try conciliation or mediation first. See the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet ‘Employment’ for details.

10. Negotiation

11. Ombudsmen

12. How much does alternative dispute resolution cost?

13. Dispute resolution services

14. Further help

15. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with the Advice Services Alliance.

Leaflet Version: November 2007

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