WHEN disputes can’t be resolved and legal proceedings start, people look to the courts to make a final decision. But the courts can’t implement some of the more creative and practical solutions which businesses themselves can come up with – that’s why I think alternative dispute resolution works.

Mediation in divorce is well-known, but it is also very useful in commercial disputes. If you can get the right mediator, and both sides are willing to negotiate, they often come up with really creative results.

For instance, if one firm owes another thousands of pounds, it looks like a straightforward debt claim. But one firm may accept contracts for work instead of some of the debt, or perhaps machinery or other assets could change hands – both businesses can come out of the process with a good result, solutions which a court could not have provided.

Very technical matters can benefit from expert determination, where both sides submit very detailed papers to an independent expert, who will decide on the issue for them. That is out of the companies’ control, of course, which is not always easy, but it helps to achieve early solutions.

For problems with an international slant, arbitration is very useful and may become more so – other countries have their own law and don’t all have the same approach to legal agreements, and arbitration can tackle the differences.

Keeping matters out of court cuts down on costs, confrontation, is more creative and commercial, often takes less time and gives those involved much more power in the process – why wouldn’t it be a good choice?