You’re involved in a legal dispute and are looking to settle the issue without going to court. Alternative dispute resolutions (or ADR) are a series of processes whereby a neutral third party—called a mediator or arbitrator—helps parties who have different viewpoints on a legal matter come to an agreement. The goal is to avoid litigation, which is often costly, time-consuming, and uncertain.
ADR methods include early neutral evaluation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. With burgeoning caseloads and growing costs, more people have begun turning to ADR as a way of settling disputes outside the courtroom. ADR methods can be binding or nonbinding, and they may result in a legally enforceable agreement, settlement or judgment.
In mediation, an impartial third party —called a mediator—helps parties and their attorneys reach their own mutually agreeable solution to the dispute. The mediator lowers tensions, improves communications, interprets the issues and encourages parties to explore potential solutions. The mediation process is private, unlike the public nature of a court case. A majority of lawsuits resolve at or shortly after mediation.
Conciliation is another form of ADR in which the parties meet with a neutral case evaluator to discuss the merits of their cases. The evaluator advises the parties on their strengths and weaknesses, and how likely it is they will win or lose at trial. This enables the parties to settle their dispute or to prepare for a trial with more confidence. Similarly, a judicially conducted mediation is similar to ADR and may be ordered by a judge or senior court official.