A different concept in dealing with disputes - compromise instead of a lawsuit - has been urged by a number of legal experts over the years, including some of the nation's Supreme Court justices.
A concrete step in that direction was taken this week when a new $3.2 million Law and Justice Center was opened in Salt Lake City. The prime focus of the center will be to resolve disputes without going to court.The approach is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR. The idea is that arbitration or some informal way to solve a problem does three things: First, it settles issues fairly quickly, instead of the often tedious and lengthy process involved in a lawsuit. Second, it is much less expensive for all parties. Third, it tends to result in better justice - an agreement, instead of a winner and loser.
All of those are excellent reasons for having such a center. In addition, it can lighten the load of an over-burdened court system and make it possible to handle more quickly those cases that do go to court.
The center offers meeting rooms and support staff for all kinds of disputes. There are programs for low-cost consultation with a lawyer. The facilities are available for scheduling 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The center also houses the offices of the Utah State Bar, the Utah Bar Foundation, and the local office of the American Arbitration Association.
None of this is costing the Utah taxpayer a cent. Some $2 million was raised by donations from Utah lawyers and judges. Federal grants and the sale of the Utah Bar's previous office accounted for the rest of the financing.
The center is one of the first of its kind in the country and already has drawn national attention.
The legal profession in Utah deserves commendation for taking a concept that other people have only talked about - and turning it into reality. As a result, the potential quality of justice in the state has been raised a notch or two.