They Said NDR Would Never Work. They Were Wrong.
Many people are surprised by how effective NDR can be.
Since publishing my book and speaking at events about NDR (Neutral-Driven Resolution), I’ve often been asked a simple question: Does it work? And if it really does lower the costs and the time it takes to settle common disputes, why doesn’t everybody know about it? Why isn´t it like Starbucks — everywhere?
The second part of the question is complicated, as I point out in Chapter Nine of my book Just Right: How Neutral-Driven Resolution Can Close the Gap in American Civil Justice. Despite the many advantages it offers to consumers of legal services, NDR faces challenges to broad adoption because it’s a non-traditional, outside-the-box way to deal with common disputes. As with almost any innovation, the pull of the status quo is strong, and acceptance takes time. Put in the plainest words possible, NDR is very good for clients, but appears not to be so good for litigation attorneys (although lawyers can benefit from NDR as I’ve written in past blogs).
But as to the first question — does NDR really work — the answer is absolutely yes!
The simple model for NDR and its extraordinary effectiveness that I describe in my book are not hypothetical or conceptual claims. NDR is here, now, and it works exactly as advertised in multiple contexts.
Here are three quick real-life examples of how NDR delivered principled justice while saving both sides money, time, and unwanted stress:
- When a contractor sued its customer for $28,000 in expenses for undue delay, it took only a few weeks and $1,500 per side for a mutually chosen arbiter to investigate and correctly decide the dispute, thanks to the parties already having a clause in their contract specifying that NDR would be used if a dispute arose. By contrast, a similar $30,000 dispute that was litigated instead cost each side over $30,000 in legal fees before settling on the eve of trial.
- A venture-backed technology company hired a major law firm to stonewall a $12,000 progress payment owed to a small website design company, until the latter invoked the NDR clause already in their contract. Within a week, the dispute settled for the full amount claimed.
- When negotiations bogged down in an employment wrongful termination case, the parties agreed to use NDR. Their mutual willingness to accept a fair, independent, and cost-efficient process changed perceptions on both sides enough to rekindle negotiations and enable a swift and just settlement.
The evidence is clear: if a dispute arises, businesses and individuals can save considerable time, money, and aggravation by relying on NDR to reach a settlement instead of utilizing traditional litigation, mediation, or arbitration. Yes, NDR is new and different. But it works.
NDR works best when it’s specified in the contract at the time it’s signed as the method that will be used should a dispute arise. Most written contracts today include dispute resolution clauses that contemplate this possibility and lay out how the parties wish to manage their relationship in the unlikely event that a dispute does arise. A clause designating NDR is very similar. (See our website for a free copy of an NDR contract clause that you can start using today). It’s like having a spare tire in the trunk. You never hope you need it, but it’s there in case of an unexpected blow-out.
But NDR can also be invoked the moment a dispute arises providing both sides agree. As you can see from one of the above examples, merely proposing to use NDR to settle a dispute demonstrated how strongly both sides believed that they were right and would be vindicated, and that led to a quick negotiated settlement.
You can get all the details of these cases and others in my book, available now on Amazon and other online booksellers. Or call or email me for more information on how NDR can save you time and money while strengthening your business and personal relationships.