Two physicians who were friends, neighbors and part of the same social community entered into a business partnership to patent and market a health product. Their agreements included many provisions for splitting proceeds once the business venture was a success. They never contemplated that they would not succeed, yet they failed, and in the process spent plenty of money, for which each blamed the other. A lawsuit would hurt their families, their images in the community and cost them even more. An experienced mediator could provide information about the possible outcomes, the risks, and the prohibitive costs. Finally, the mediator they chose guided the doctors to an agreement they could not only live with, but under which they could retain a relationship after the partnership was dissolved. The mediation process is not limited to partnership dissolutions or any particular category of commercial dispute. Disputes over business contracts, acquisitions or sales of property, or insurance matters are well suited for the process. San Diego County's economy, as described by the University of San Diego's index of local indicators in a recent report, is headed in a positive direction. Tourism, the biotech industry, and the Department of the Navy all contribute to the region's success. Regional economic growth is strong relative to other counties in California and to other cities throughout the country. While we bask in the success of the region's economy, our attention is diverted from an underlying problem that affects most businesses. As more companies move here, more transactions take place, more partnerships form and dissolve, conflict is evitable and the courts are continually challenged. Although its "fast-track" program helps, the court system is unable to complete cases quickly enough to resolve the dispute and allow the company to focus its attention on business. The business community faces not only increased financial costs related to litigation but also the cost of time. Businesses that use mediation in conflicts allow them to move forward, solve problems and save money. They're going to be more successful. The National Conflict Resolution Center's (NCRC) approach to resolving conflicts has proved to be such a sensible alternative to the court process. Mediating litigated case conflicts leads to quicker resolutions and greater party satisfaction. Yet, while mediation is certainly an appropriate, legal way to approach a dispute, it is more than that. Mediation is distinct from rights-based, more formal legalistic processes. The most critical difference is where the final decision-making authority resides. In mediation, the decision always rests with the parties. In other processes, such as arbitration and the courts, the decision is made by a third party not directly involved in the dispute (a judge, the jury, an arbitrator). Another important distinction is that mediation is interest-based while the legal process is rights-based and evidentiary in nature, focusing on past behavior and ending with a judgment about conduct. Mediation is future-focused, allowing the disputing parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution that often repairs the relationship and allows the business arrangement or partnership to continue. NCRC's panel of expert commercial mediators includes lawyers with broad-based commercial, business and mediation experience who have been serving the San Diego legal and business community for decades. NCRC, formerly the San Diego Mediation Center, has expanded its panel to offer mediators who can best assist the parties to arrive at acceptable, creative and effective solutions. Experts include Robert Ames, Herbert Solomon, Colin Wied, Thomas Sharkey, Douglas Barker, Peter Shenas, Eric Freeberg, James Knotter, Jonathan Brenner and Shaun Boss. To inquire about or to schedule a mediation, contact Kathy Bayer, NCRC specialty panel coordinator, (619) 238-2400, ext. 213; email@example.com. NCRC may also be reached through its Web site, www.ncrconline.com.