Types of Alternative Dispute Resolutions

If you’re involved in a dispute, it might be useful to consider alternative ways to resolve the issue outside of a courtroom. Generally, these methods are quicker and less expensive than pursuing a lawsuit. They also often provide the parties with an opportunity to settle their differences more personally than a judicial hearing, which is largely impersonal and inflexible.

Alternative dispute resolutions—also known as ADR—are procedures where a neutral third party helps the disputing parties in a case reach an agreement. There are many types of ADR, including mediation and arbitration.

In mediation, a neutral third party (the mediator) helps both parties identify their concerns and reach an agreement on a solution. It’s typically informal, and its outcomes are nonbinding. The mediator may suggest a settlement, but the decision is ultimately up to the parties.

Arbitration involves a neutral third party (the arbitrator) who cedes decision-making authority to the parties and hears arguments and evidence from both sides. Like mediation, its outcomes are binding, but it is more formal than a trial with stricter rules of evidence and limited discovery.

Another common ADR is a mini-trial, where lawyers from both parties present an abbreviated version of their cases to a panel made up of a representative from each side and a neutral member. The goal is to help the top officials of both parties conduct settlement negotiations, assisted by the neutral panel member. This ADR is usually used early on in the litigation.