Early Neutral Evaluation is a relatively little known form of ADR and is best suited to situations where there is a single or several discrete issues that need to be resolved to unlock a dispute. Early Neutral Evaluation is very effective where the sticking point in a dispute is the interpretation of a term in a lease or a legal technicality.
The process involves nominating an independent and impartial expert to make a non-binding determination in relation to the issue in dispute after weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of each side's case. For example, if the issue was a point of law or the interpretation of drafting in a lease, then a specialist solicitor or barrister, ideally who also perhaps sits as a judge, would be nominated to make a determination.
The option of using Early Neutral Evaluation is now referred to in the Civil Procedure Rules and can be used on its own or in conjunction with other forms of ADR, such as mediation and arbitration. Once an evaluation has been given it is non-binding.
However, this will usually then be used to trigger or resume more informed settlement negotiations, often a much quicker and cheaper approach than going to court. To set the ground rules and parameters of the Early Neutral Evaluation, each side will need to sign an agreement on how the evaluation will be dealt with, what is expected from the evaluator, the status of the determination once reached, and any arrangement for costs.
One of the main benefits of Early Neutral Evaluation is its speed as it helps to quickly crystallise the issues in dispute. The process also highlights the difficulties that a particular side may have with their case, and in turn prompt settlement negotiations.
For these reasons, Early Neutral Evaluation can be a very cost-effective way of resolving disputes, especially if there are only one or two points in issue.
Get in touch with Raeburn Consulting, and we can talk you through the process and provide more information to see if Early Neutral Evaluation is for you.