Arbitration or Mediation: What Is the Difference?

Arbitration or Mediation: What Is the Difference?

Danielle L. Hargrove is the Owner of DLH ADR Solutions PLLC, proud United States Air Force veteran and independent provider of neutral services – solely as a mediator, arbitrator, facilitator and hearing officer. She speaks below on her decision to transform her practice and its impact on her life-work balance, as well as the different skill sets required of good mediators and arbitrators.

Tell us how you came to settle on an ADR practice?

As a former litigator, I tended to resolve issues for my clients by working with opposing parties and counsel before litigation became necessary or viable. I think I have a knack for meeting people where they are and helping them find ways to resolve issues in ways that best suit them. One day in 1995, a former opposing counsel asked if I would be willing to serve as a mediator in one of his cases.  I’ve been mediating ever since. I began arbitrating commercial and employment matters in 2002, eventually expanding into labour arbitration.  I love that I learn new things with each case and the varied parties and industries.  With labour arbitration, the arbitrator must not be an advocate.  This requirement led to me consider a full-time neutral practice.  I do hope to expand my ADR practice internationally.

What personality traits or skill sets make for a good mediator and arbitrator?

The two couldn’t be more different.  Whether arbitrating or mediating, it helps to be a good listener.  I also attribute my success as a mediator to the following practices:

  1. Creativity: I am creative in my proposals or in helping the parties communicate with each other.  Learning what is really important to the parties is critical and it sometimes may not be found in pleadings or their attorney’s arguments.
  2. Persistence: I don’t give up until all avenues have been explored.
  3. Patience: Strong conflict resolution skills are important.  Parties sometimes need to work through things at a slower pace to filter information and emotions.  Sometimes it involves being on the receiving end of displaced negative emotions, such as anger or fear.
  4. Facilitator: I also try to help parties hear where the other side is coming from and address the challenges of their respective positions in an unbiased, objective way that allows them to safely acknowledge challenges, even if there is disagreement.


As the arbitrator, in addition to being a good listener, I strive for my decisions to reflect objectivity, thoughtfulness in considering both parties’ positions, and to provide a fair and just process.  It perhaps goes without saying that competence, timeliness, and a judicial temperament and demeanour make good qualities in an arbitrator as well.


Describe a typical day, week or month?

On most days, I work from my home office, reading or studying pleadings and/or writing my decisions.  On other days of the week, I travel to hear my cases.  My neutral practice allows me to maintain a healthy work-life balance just to my liking.


Who hires you?

I am honoured to serve on several neutral administering rosters, to include the American Arbitration Association, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the National Mediation Board, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.  Lawyers or parties to a dispute select neutrals from these rosters, or I am duly appointed through these organisations.  Public and private sector entities also select neutrals, through their representatives, as part of their dispute resolution or grievance processes.  I am also sometimes selected on an ad hoc basis where the parties mutually agree to have me mediate or arbitrate a case.


Do you prefer mediating or arbitrating?

I can’t say I have a preference.  I like exercising the different skill sets equally.  I find great fulfilment in facilitating – helping parties hear and be heard.    I also enjoy my role as an arbitrator and honest broker.  As a neutral, I respect and honour the responsibility entrusted to me by the parties. 


Danielle L. Hargrove


DLH ADR Solutions PLLC

20079 Stone Oak Pkwy #606

San Antonio, TX 78258


Danielle L. Hargrove has been an active mediator since 1996 and arbitrator since 2002, primarily  in commercial and labor and employment matters, working in both the non-union and union sectors in private and public employment. Danielle is an experienced neutral who manages the process with professionalism and impartiality. Her decisions are always properly grounded in fact, the law and appropriate case precedent.