Is having your “day in court” worth it?

By Kate Hall, JD, Mediator

People who are involved in dispute often think that they will get the outcome they want if they are able to get to court, get up on the witness stand, get sworn in, and tell the judge their side of the story. People often think that once the judge hears their side, the judge will certainly make a decision in their favor.  

Of course, sometimes this is true - but a full 50% of people walk out of court unhappy.  

This is not to say that going to court is always a mistake. However, it is good business to do a cost/benefit analysis when you have or anticipate a dispute. Talk to an attorney about what your options are and what dispute resolution process fits your needs.  

When deciding on your process, it is important to know that solving disputes with the help of the court is expensive - simply filing a case in court will cost a few hundred dollars depending on the type of case, and going all the way to trial might cost thousands of dollars. Paying one professional mediator instead of multiple attorneys and the court often brings down the total costs. Putting your situation in the hands of a stranger, no matter how well qualified that person is, is also uncertain - going to court does not guarantee the outcome that you think is right. 

One alternative to court is mediation. In the mediation process, people who are involved in a dispute, along with a mediator, determine the ground rules for a conversation that is designed to come to an outcome that fits the needs of everyone involved. One of the necessary ground rules is for mediation to work successfully is respectful listening.  In this process, your side of the story will be heard - so maybe you don't have to pay a lot of money for an outcome that may not fit your needs.