Early neutral evaluation (ENE) is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that involves the assessment of a legal dispute by a neutral third party early in the litigation process.
The goal is to provide an unbiased evaluation of each party’s strengths and weaknesses, helping the litigants involved in the dispute to reach a resolution faster and with less cost or disruption.
How does it work?
In an early neutral evaluation, the neutral evaluator, who is typically an experienced attorney or a retired judge, reviews the facts and legal arguments presented by both sides. The evaluator then offers an assessment of the likely outcome if the case proceeds to trial or arbitration. This evaluation is usually non-binding, meaning that the parties are not obligated to follow the evaluator’s recommendation, and they retain the option to pursue litigation if they are unable to reach a settlement. An ENE has the following advantages:
- Early assessment: ENE allows parties to gain a realistic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their case at an early stage, potentially saving time, money, and effort that would be expended in protracted litigation.
- Settlement facilitation: The evaluation can help parties identify common ground and potential areas for compromise, making it easier to engage in settlement negotiations.
- Preserve relationships: By addressing the dispute in a non-adversarial manner, ENE can help preserve business relationships and reduce the emotional toll associated with prolonged litigation.
ENE is generally quicker and less formal than traditional court proceedings, allowing for a more efficient resolution of the dispute.
It’s important to note that the specific process and rules for early neutral evaluation may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the agreed-upon terms between the parties. Experienced legal guidance can help.