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Frie, Arndt & Danborn Blog

Alternative Dispute Resolution – Mini Trial

by Frie, Arndt & Danborn


A mini-trial is a process whereby

-a neutral and an official with settlement authority from each party

-listen to the evidence and conduct settlement negotiations.


The mini-trial uses elements of negotiation, mediation and adjudication to facilitate settlement. Parties or their representatives are exposed in the non-binding mini-trial to the theories, strengths and weaknesses of each side of the controversy. The goal of the mini-trial is to facilitate settlement negotiations between top officials of the parties.

The procedure for a mini-trial is usually negotiated in each case. The typical mini-trial involves a stay of court proceedings and limited discovery. At the mini-trial, the lawyers present their abbreviated version of the case to the panel members. The party officials then conduct settlement negotiations facilitated by the neutral panel member. The neutral member may be asked to present a written opinion stating the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position.

The mini-trial was developed to encourage the settlement of business disputes. It is especially useful in large and complex cases where negotiations are stalled, and, tike the summary jury trial, the parties need to see for themselves the strengths and weaknesses of their cases in order to reopen negotiations. Cases that would take months or years of litigation can take place in a few days in a mini-trial. The process is much less expensive than litigation and provides confidentiality not found in a trial. The parties are free to be practical and creative in their settlements, unlike traditional resolution of issues by the court. The use of the mini-trial may save a business relationship between parties that might otherwise be destroyed by bitter litigation.

The risks of using mini-trials are the possible disclosure of trial strategies and the added expense and delay if a trial is ultimately needed.

The mini-trial can be an efficient and cost-effective method of resolving complex litigation and should be considered when an impasse to negotiations has occurred, but the parties are still interested in settlement of their dispute.


Our firm attempts to utilize Alternative Dispute Resolution in each case in which it would benefit the client.  Additionally, Jim Arndt is a private mediator and acts as a neutral third party to resolve disputes out of court.  Please give our office a call to assist you with your legal problems.


This is an excerpt from an article published by the Colorado Bar Association, 2002. https://www.cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/211/subID/1244/CAAD/Manual-on-Alternative-Dispute-Resolution/