All New Streamlined System Designed to ReduceLegal Costs by more than 75 Percent
MINNEAPOLIS(June 2016) — Call it the Minute Clinic approach to commercial disputes.
As almost anyone in business today will tell you, legal costs are far too high to justify going to Court to enforce almost all contract rights.
By significantly streamlining the process, anew paradigm for fairly resolving typical business disputes–JustForumAccess(JFA)–has been created by William Van Brunt, a former trial lawyer and general counsel to major companies. This new system is designed to eliminate the need for trial specialists and reduce the legal costs of resolving commercial disputes and time to a just decision by more than 75 percent.
Today, far too many legitimate and unsatisfied contract claims are never brought to Court. Of those brought to Court, the estimates are that less than 4 percent are tried, 50 percent are settled–many times, not fairly–and 30 percent are abandoned, primarily due to costs.
Legal proceedings can take years and, according to the National Center for State Courts, the median legal cost borne by each party to try a typical commercial dispute has risen to $94,400. This is 111 percent of the median award, $85,000, if an award is made. Traditional arbitration– which, other than using a jury to decide a matter, typically involves the same procedures as litigation –can cost even more and take even longer.
Legal costs have given rise to a de-facto bar to the enforceability of significant and meritorious claims for breach of typical commercial contracts. The result: well over $15 billion in write-offs by business, every year. This is a de-facto denial of justice on a massive scale.
JFA is a system of online arbitration, using experienced, neutral lawyer/arbitrators with legal counsel representing the parties. The system is designed to fairly, cost-effectively and efficiently resolve typical commercial disputes, where legal costs are often disproportionately high, matters with claims less than $500,000 and more than $20,000. Nearly all –99 percent– of legal typical business contract disputes involve claims with a value less than $500,000.
JFA is an efficient system of arbitration, utilizing focused discovery and eliminating oral argument, live testimony and the formality of a trial for deciding business contract and similar commercial disputes. Claims are resolved solely by means of written, electronic communications, within 180 days from commencement of the proceedings. As a result, there is no need to use specialized trial counsel.
“The JFA system is a whole new way to look at dispute resolution,” JFA CEO and founder Van Brunt says. “Too often costs and delays mean –for far too many significant and legitimate commercial claims –that justice is denied.”
One example: Instead of paying a median legal cost of $94,000 seeking to recover damages for a breach of contract claim worth a median value of $85,000, using JFA referred counsel, JFA will resolve this case for $13,400, assuming a typical case with a counterclaim and two additional claims, within six months, not years. This cost includes arbitrator’s, attorney’s and all JFA fees, which amounts to a savings of $80,000, or 86 percent, for each party. Since it takes only one unreasonable party to impose the costs of dispute resolution on a reasonable party, under the JFA system, if a party is unreasonable in resolving a dispute, that party, win or lose, pays the JFA costs of the other reasonable party for that proceeding. According to Van Brunt, this should lead to more reasonable and fair settlements.
“As more and more businesses include a provision in their contracts calling for dispute resolution by JFA there will be a reintroduction of the just enforceability of legal contract rights for significant claims and, hopefully, a major shift in contract compliance,”Van Brunt says. “JFA will be to contract enforcement what the MinuteClinic is to the treatment of strep throats–efficient, available, correct and cost effective; only JFA employs experienced lawyers as arbitrators and requires or provides lawyers as parties’ representatives, not legal assistants or paralegals.”
A corporate and business lawyer with more than 40 years of global legal experience, Van Brunt has served as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary for CarlsonCompanies; vice president and division general counsel for General Mills’ food and international operations and senior in-house counsel for Hershey Foods, a trial lawyer, in private practice, and before that designed hypersonic missile systems. Van Brunt holds a Masters degree in law from Harvard Law School and a Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT. He is a Qualified Neutral Arbitrator and Mediator under Rule 114 of Minnesota General Rules of Practice for Minnesota for Civil Facilitative/Hybrid Processes.
JFA has an advisory board comprised of some of the top former jurists, arbitrators, trial counsel and former managing partners of major law firms, corporate directors and general counsel in the country.
Using JustForumAccess as an alternative to the Courts and traditional arbitration offers businesses significant differences and advantages when pursuing dispute resolution, including:
A streamlined system offering cost and time savings of 75 percent or more compared to both the Courts and typical systems of arbitration.
Fair and reasonable settlement offers
JFA rules are designed to promote settlement. Each party is required to make an offer to settle the dispute, and, in order to avoid paying the other party’s fees if not settled, is in cented to be reasonable.
The reason that there is a dispute is there are differing views as to the facts, interpretation of the contract and/or the law. The outcome of a lawsuit, especially the amount of any final award, is seldom certain and in the end, a plaintiff may end up with nothing. While the JFA procedures cannot change that, they are designed to encourage voluntary settlements not driven by costs, but on the merits, thereby putting the parties in control of their fate, if they can agree.
No institutional bias
All arbitrators must be experienced, licensed lawyers selected by JFA, not the parties or their counsel. The arbitrator will have no conflicts, no institutional ties and feel absolutely no need to please either party or its lawyers.
Just and fair proceedings
At the conclusion of the proceedings the arbitrator’s award must be based on the facts, applicable agreements and the law and conclude with a written, rational and reasoned decision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law. Unlike other most other forms of arbitration, parties have a right, for a fee equal to the total base fee in the first proceeding, to appeal any materially erroneous decision, which will be reviewed by a new three-member arbitration panel and corrected, if they so decide.
By simplifying the process and procedures associated with arbitration and setting reasonable deadlines, JFA reduces the time it takes to obtain a final decision in accordance with the law to six months or less, compared to what can be years of litigation.
All fees and costs for JFA, the arbitrators and, if requested, JFA-referred representatives are set at a flat amount and capped.
JFA offers businesses a new, cost-effective and efficient paradigm in the dispute resolution process, designed to provide a civic good by fostering fair settlements and providing timely and fair resolutions of typical commercial disputes.
For more information, visit www.JustForumAccess.com.