When spy novelist Tom Clancy and his first publisher disagreed over ownership rights to the fictional star Jack Ryan of Clancy's 1984 best seller "The Hunt for Red October," the dispute was resolved through mediation, not litigation.

And after Kerry Milliken failed to make the U.S. Olympic equestrian team last summer, she filed a complaint with American Arbitration Association, contending that the selection criteria for the team going to Seoul was improper. Again, the conflict was quickly resolved outside a courtroom by an arbitrator.Americans have earned the reputation for being the most litigious society on earth. But Utahns are joining a growing national tendency to resolve their problems through less-costly alternatives.

At the invitation of the Utah State Bar, the grand-daddy of arbitration - the American Arbitration Association - has opened an office in Salt Lake City at the Utah Law and Justice Center, 645 S. Second East. The AAA had provided consultation to the bar in developing plans for the justice center, which is the first of its kind nationally.

The AAA is a national, non-profit organization that uses mediation and arbitration to find ways to resolve conflicts without costly litigation.

Kimberly Curtis, formerly an AAA administrator in Denver, is the new AAA director for the Utah division.

Arbitration - a process that resolves disputes through the use of a third-party intermediary - is booming in many areas of business, including banking, securities, insurance, computers and employee/employer relations.

"People want to do business, not argue about it," says Curtis.

An AAA success case that dramatically shows the advantages of arbitration over litigation involved the International Business Machines Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. of Japan, said Curtis. At issue was Fujitsu's copying of software that made its computers compatible with IBM machines. Under a 1983 licensing agreement, Fujitsu had agreed to pay IBM for the rights to produce the software. But the companies could not agree to specific terms.

After the companies turned to AAA for third-party assistance, they resolved one of the largest commercial arbitration cases ever - without an expensive, lengthy court battle. In November, Fujitsu announced it would pay IBM $833 million to resolve the six-year-old computer dispute.

Alternative Dispute Resolution has the potential to make humane, efficient and economical problem-solving available. "In this high-tech world, people are finding they do have the ability to resolve their own problems," she said.

Mediation involves the assistance of a third-party who helps conflicting parties reach their own agreement.

Arbitration requires the assistance of an arbitrator - an attorney, contractor, financial planner or someone with expertise in the area of dispute - who has authority to hear the facts of the case, listen to witnesses and make a binding decision on both parties.

Besides reducing the financial and emotional cost of depositions and court hearings, the two parties are ensured confidentiality. The public and the press are not permitted to observe the arbitration process - unless invited.

Since its creation in 1926, the AAA has helped resolve 54,000 cases.

The Utah State Bar is being heralded nationally for its "unique support" of ways to resolve conflict short of going to court.

"Lawyers are still the gatekeepers of dispute resolution," Curtis said. "A good lawyer will use the AAA to best serve his clients. If a dispute can be solved quickly through mediation or arbitration, then the attorney can focus his attention on cases requiring litigation. It's ultimately best for the justice system and best for the public."