Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Early Neutral Evaluation: Alternative to Evaluative Mediation

In the latest issue of The Florida Bar ADR Section's New & Tips, I explore a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution that is more often used outside Florida. Early Neutral Evaluation or ENE is evolving as an effective form of ADR, given the continued high cost of litigation. This process is a corollary of mediation that puts the neutral in the role enhancing direct communication between the parties about their claims and supporting evidence. ENE can provide an assessment on the merits of the case by a neutral expert in an early reality check for clients and lawyers alike. This helps to identify and clarify the central issues in dispute, assist with discovery (including E-discovery) and can streamline case management. Early Neutral Evaluation can: - Enhance direct communication between the parties about their claims and supporting evidence; - Provide an assessment of the merits of the case by an experienced legal neutral, amounting to a reality check for clients and lawyers; - Identify core issues in dispute while assisting with discovery planning (including electronically stored information); and - Facilitate settlement discussions when requested by the parties before the evaluation. A court-appointed neutral with expertise in the subject matter typically hosts an informal meeting of clients and counsel, once the parties request ENE. Following presentations consisting of a confidential exchange of factual information, the evaluator identifies areas of agreement, clarifies the issues and encourages the parties to enter into any stipulation or agreement that is feasible, including settlement. The parties’ formal discovery, disclosure and motion practice rights are fully preserved. The confidential evaluation is not shared with the trial court. If no settlement is reached, the case remains in litigation, but likely with the litigants better informed as to the risks, amount of work still necessary and the monetary estimate of continuing toward trial. Read more here--