Skip to main content


Two-Track vs. Traditional Litigation

Lawsuits are expensive, time consuming, and stressful. It can take years before a case actually reaches the courts. When the case is finally tried or settled, legal fees alone may make up to half of the award and in some cases more. 98% of cases settle without trial, usually on the courthouse steps. Nonetheless, the courts provide a needed backup when issues cannot be resolved by the parties through other means.

Mediation and arbitration are constructive alternatives to litigation, but have failed to achieve their promise to save time and money. They typically occur late in the game, after expensive discovery.

What is needed is a collaborative process free of the expense of adversarial and combative win/lose maneuvers, a process that encourages constructive information-sharing and the creation of solutions acceptable to all.

What is Two-Track?

Compared to Traditional Litigation, Two-Track maximizes settlement opportunities by putting negotiation on a ‘track’ that is separate from litigation. The negotiation track can run parallel to litigation (Parallel Two-Track), or it can precede (or replace) litigation (Sequential Two-Track). Attorneys represent their respective parties for a Track 1 event (negotiation or mediation) OR a Track 2 event (litigation or arbitration), but NOT both tracks on the same case.

Advantages of  Two-Track

  • Cooperative discovery on Track 1 is less expensive than adversarial discovery on Track 2.
  • The process is confidential, and disclosures in settlement negotiations cannot be used in court.
  • The parties preserve all rights to litigation if needed.
  • Clients get the best of both worlds: dedicated negotiation specialist, and dedicated trial attorney as back up.

A Closer Look at Traditional Litigation

For those unfamiliar with how Traditional Litigation works, here is a summary of the model that Two-Track is intended to replace, with dollar signs ($) added to suggest billable time:

The Start

  1. In the traditional model the case starts when a plaintiff hires an attorney who drafts a petition and files the lawsuit ($).
  2. The defendant hires an attorney who drafts and files an answer to the lawsuit ($).

War Commences (Adversarial Discovery)

  1. The attorneys make demands ($), study their files ($), interview witnesses ($), study the law ($), and prepare their cases ($).
  2. Both sides typically hire expert testifying witnesses ($), maybe expert consulting witnesses ($), and frequently assign work to associate attorneys ($) and paralegals ($).
  3. The plaintiff’s attorney prepares discovery, including document production requests ($), interrogatories ($), requests for admissions ($) and perhaps site inspections($), etc.($).
  4. The defendant’s attorney does the same ($)($)($)($)($).

The Meter Keeps Running (Trial Preparation)

  1. Then the defendant’s attorney prepares responses to the plaintiff’s discovery requests ($)($)($)($)($).
  2. The plaintiff’s attorney does likewise ($)($)($)($)($).
  3. The plaintiff’s attorney conducts one or more depositions ($)($)(?)(?)(?).
  4. The defendant’s attorney does likewise ($)($)(?)(?)(?).
  5. Often there will be a number of other strategic moves by the attorneys, e.g., motions for summary judgment ($), motions to strike ($), motions for sanctions ($), etc.($).

Late in the Game: Settlement Talks and/or Mediation (ADR)

  1. Somewhere during the process the parties may decide to discuss settlement, typically between the lawyers ($)($).
  2. Often the parties decide to use a mediator ($), and the attorneys and parties meet for a mediation ($)($)($)($).
  3. If there is a settlement, the case comes to a close.

Trial and Appeal

  1. If there is no settlement, the parties prepare for trial ($)($)($)($).
  2. Then there is the trial ($)($)($).
  3. Then one or both parties may appeal ($)($)($).
  4. Then one or both parties may appeal again ($)($)($).

Follow the Money

  1. Then the losing party pays the judgment ($)($)($)($)($) and perhaps the other side’s attorneys’ fees ($)($)($)($)($).
  2. A small dollar lawsuit may not include all of the above steps.
  3. A very high dollar lawsuit may include many more steps than the above.

How It Works

When parties agree to participate in Two-Track, they are choosing to collaboratively develop a solution that will address the individual, and sometimes common, interests of each party. However, they preserve their right to go to court (Track 2) if they do not reach an agreement in Track 1.

  1. If you, as a party, decide to use the Two-Track method, you and your attorney will sign a Counsel Engagement Letter in which your attorney agrees to represent you for Track 1 (negotiation and/or mediation). You will identify another attorney who will represent you if the case is transferred to Track 2 (litigation or arbitration).
  2. Your Track 1 attorney and the Track 1 attorney for each of the other parties will meet and sign a Participation Agreement and other documents for using the model.
  3. With confidentiality legally protected, the Track 1 attorneys will cooperatively share information and, with your participation, negotiate a resolution.
  4. If you reach agreement, then the case is closed earlier than it would be through litigation.
  5. If agreement is not reached, you will transfer the case to your Track 2 attorney for litigation.

Prove It!

We can help you evaluate the impact the Two-Track model on one or more actual cases via a confidential simulation or pilot with a small sample of cases.

  • Simulation: we offer a Two-Track demonstration on cases for which you already have data on the outcome.
  • Pilot: we create a test using current or upcoming cases.

The Prove It! Method includes training for participants and report comparing Two-Trackoutcomes with Traditional Litigation on the following key measures:

  • Days to close (from notice of incident/claim to close of case by settlement, trial/appeal).
  • Percent of award/settlement to expenses (using ABA approved Uniform Task Based Management System (UTBMS) categories).
  • Satisfaction of parties and attorneys.

Click here for assistance in implementing a customized “Prove it!” test for one or more cases.

Procedures Manual for Attorneys

The Two-Track Dispute Resolution Procedures Manual (“Procedures Manual”) provides tools for attorneys to serve plaintiffs or defendants in a Track 1 Negotiating Attorney role.  This attorney work product includes boilerplate Client Engagement and Participation Agreements and other forms, and is available for no charge in exchange for attorney feedback on use of the Two-Track forms their area(s) of practice.

Click here to download your copy of the Two-Track Procedures Manual.


Fisher, R.
“He Who Pays the Piper.” 

Harvard Business Review, March-April 1985, 156-157.

Slaikeu, K.A.
When Push Comes to Shove: A Practical Guide to Mediating Disputes

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 1996.

Slaikeu, K.A., and Hasson, R.H.  Controlling the Costs of Conflict: How to Design a System for Your Organization.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 1998.

Slaikeu, K.A., and Slaikeu, D.W.   “Confidential from General Counsel to CEO: ‘I’m Fed Up, and We’re Not Going to Take This Anymore!’”
Journal of Health Care Law and Policy, 2002, (5)2, 335-355.