A just-released study of dispute resolution practices in Fortune 1,000 corporations shows that many large companies are using binding arbitration — adjudication with private judges — less often and relying more on mediated negotiation and other approaches aimed at getting disputes settled more informally, quickly and inexpensively. The study, based on a 2011 survey of corporate counsel developed by researchers at Cornell and Pepperdine universities with input from the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR), indicates that although the approaches of large corporations vary widely, their decisions about how to manage conflict usually boil down to issues of control.

Three decades ago, leading corporate counsel were in the forefront of efforts to avoid the costs and risks of Rambo-style litigation — what some have called a "quiet revolution" in dispute resolution. They began using approaches like minitrial and negotiation with the help of mediators. Thanks in part to U.S. Supreme Court decisions promoting the enforcement of arbitration agreements, binding arbitration became even more important as a substitute for public trial. A 1997 Cornell survey of Fortune 1,000 corporate counsel chronicled these developments and suggested a bright future for mediation and arbitration. Corporate counsel expressed positive views of many perceived benefits of these options, including savings of time and cost and more satisfactory, durable results.

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