A mini-trial is a specially designed process used in litigation cases where, before a settlement can be reached, it is necessary or desirable for the parties to have an understanding of each otherís cases, and what each side may anticipate, or be faced with, at trial. It may employ various mixed dispute resolution processes. Any model can be designed by the attorneys in conjunction with a third party neutral, taking into consideration the particular needs of the parties and the dictates of the litigation.

In one model, for example, attorneys for both sides present their cases in an abbreviated form to a panel composed of the neutral advisor, a representative of one party and a representative of the other party, each with decision making authority. The abbreviated presentation may consist of a summary argument by each attorney, presentation of testimony by key witnesses, documents, or whatever other matters may be agreed to by the attorneys.

Upon the conclusion of the presentation, the partiesí representatives retire in an attempt to negotiate a settlement based upon what they have learned from the presentations. While the representatives are negotiating, the neutral advisor assesses and evaluates the case and records his or her findings. If the parties reach a settlement, the neutralís evaluation is not disclosed. If a settlement is not reached, the neutralís decision is disclosed. The parties, prior to commencing the process, may agree to accept the neutralís decision as final and binding. Alternatively, the parties may decide to further negotiate or mediate the issues in light of the evaluation, or to conclude the process and proceed to trial.

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