Non-Binding Arbitration

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 What Is Non-Binding Arbitration?

Non-binding arbitration is a type of dispute resolution process where an arbitrator or arbitration panel hears the arguments from both parties and issues a decision. The key aspect of non-binding arbitration is that the decision made by the arbitrator is not binding and legally enforceable, meaning the parties are not obligated to comply with the decision.

They may accept the decision and use it to resolve their dispute, or they may reject it and pursue other avenues of resolution, such as mediation, negotiation, or litigation.


Mediation is a dispute resolution method that involves a neutral third party, known as a mediator. The mediator’s role is to facilitate communication between the parties, help them understand each other’s positions, and guide them toward a mutually agreeable resolution. Unlike a judge or arbitrator, a mediator doesn’t make decisions or impose solutions but helps the parties to create their own.

Example: Let’s consider a business dispute where two partners in a small business disagree with the future direction of their company. One wants to expand rapidly, taking on substantial debt, while the other wants to grow more slowly and organically. They decide to hire a mediator who helps them communicate their viewpoints, understand each other’s concerns, and eventually develop a compromise strategy that satisfies both partners.


Negotiation is a basic dispute resolution method involving direct discussions between the conflicting parties. Negotiation aims to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Negotiation can be informal and flexible, allowing parties to control the process and the solutions.

Example: Suppose two neighbors have a dispute over a tree that sits on their property line. One neighbor wants the tree removed because it blocks their view, while the other wants it to stay because it provides shade. The neighbors could negotiate, discussing their preferences and working towards a solution that might involve trimming the tree instead of removing it.


Litigation is the most formal dispute resolution process and involves taking a case to court. In litigation, a judge (often a jury) hears the case and makes a binding decision. Litigation follows strict procedures and rules of evidence, and the process can be long and expensive.

Example: In a personal injury case, if someone slips and falls in a grocery store and sustains injuries, they might sue the grocery store for negligence. The case would go to court, where a judge or jury would hear the evidence, determine whether the grocery store was at fault, and, if so, decide the amount of damages the grocery store must pay the injured person.

What’s the Purpose of Arbitration If It’s Non-Binding?

The main purpose of non-binding arbitration is to provide the parties with an impartial perspective on the merits of their case. It serves as a tool to help the parties understand the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments, potential damages, and the likely outcome if the dispute were to go to court.

Non-binding arbitration can help facilitate settlement discussions and potentially help parties to reach an agreement without going to court. It is often less formal, less expensive, and faster than litigation.

Consider a hypothetical scenario involving a dispute between a landlord and a tenant.


Suppose there is a dispute between a landlord, Mrs. Smith, and her tenant, Mr. Johnson, regarding damage to the rented property. Mr. Johnson has vacated the property, but Mrs. Smith refuses to return his security deposit, claiming that the damage caused to the property goes beyond normal wear and tear. Mr. Johnson disputes this, insisting the damage was minor and within acceptable limits.

Neither Mrs. Smith nor Mr. Johnson want to take the matter to court, knowing that litigation can be costly and time-consuming. Therefore, they agree to non-binding arbitration. The arbitrator, an experienced property manager, examines the evidence, including photographs, repair bills, and the lease agreement.

After the arbitration session, the arbitrator found that while there was damage to the property, it was not as extensive as Mrs. Smith claimed. The arbitrator suggests that Mrs. Smith return half of Mr. Johnson’s security deposit.

Since the arbitration is non-binding, Mrs. Smith and Mr. Johnson can choose whether or not to accept this decision. Given the neutral assessment of their dispute, they both decide to accept the arbitrator’s recommendation, which allows them to resolve their dispute quickly and avoid the cost and hassle of court proceedings.

In this scenario, the non-binding arbitration served its purpose effectively: providing an impartial third-party evaluation of the dispute and helping the parties to reach a fair resolution without needing to go to court.

What Is the Difference Between Non-Binding and Binding Arbitration?

The fundamental difference between non-binding and binding arbitration is whether the arbitrator’s decision is enforceable. In binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is final and enforceable by law, meaning the parties must comply with the decision, and it is generally not subject to appeal. Binding arbitration is akin to a court proceeding in that respect.

On the other hand, in non-binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is more of a recommendation. The parties can choose to follow the decision or not. If a party is dissatisfied with the result of non-binding arbitration, they can pursue a lawsuit in court or explore other dispute resolution methods.

Let’s consider a dispute between two businesses over a product supply contract.

Binding Arbitration Scenario

In a binding arbitration scenario, let’s say Business A and Business B had a dispute over the quality of products supplied by Business A. Both businesses agreed to go to binding arbitration as stipulated in their requirements for a valid contract. After hearing both sides, the arbitrator decides that Business A was indeed supplying substandard products and orders them to refund a certain amount to Business B.

In this case, because the arbitration was binding, Business A must legally comply with the decision. They must refund the designated amount to Business B, and generally cannot appeal this decision to a court.

Non-Binding Arbitration Scenario

Now, let’s consider the same scenario but with non-binding arbitration. Again, the arbitrator determines that Business A supplied substandard products and recommends they refund a certain amount to Business B. However, since this is a non-binding arbitration, Business A can disregard the arbitrator’s decision. They might decide that they would prefer to take the case to court, believing that a judge might see the situation differently.

In this scenario, the arbitrator’s decision is not legally enforceable, and Business A is free to pursue other avenues to resolve the dispute.

In both cases, the arbitration process is the same, but the enforceability of the decision is what distinguishes binding arbitration from non-binding arbitration.

What Are Some Examples of Non-Binding Arbitration?

A non binding arbitration example could involve a dispute between a homeowner and a contractor over the quality of work done on a home renovation project. If both parties agree to non-binding arbitration, an arbitrator would hear both sides and decide.

However, this decision is not legally enforceable. If the homeowner disagrees with the arbitrator’s decision, they can ignore it and instead bring a lawsuit against the contractor.

Similarly, a business and a supplier disagreement about a breach of a supply contract could go to non-binding arbitration. If either party is unhappy with the arbitrator’s decision, they can go to court to resolve their dispute.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Non-Binding Arbitration Sessions?

Hiring an employment lawyer for non-binding arbitration can provide numerous benefits. A lawyer can prepare you for the process, guide you in presenting your case, and provide advice on the pros and cons of accepting the arbitrator’s decision. Understanding whether non-binding arbitration is right for your situation can be complicated, and a lawyer can provide valuable insight.

LegalMatch can connect you with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate through the process of non-binding arbitration. Visit LegalMatch today to find the right attorney for your needs.

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