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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternative Dispute Resolution may be the best way to settle your dispute quickly and affordably.

Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, is a means of settling civil disputes outside the courtroom. In ADR, the disputing parties come together in person or via a facilitator to reach an agreement. These agreements may be binding in the form of a contract or non-binding in the form of advice and recommendations. Alternative Dispute Resolution is also typically more affordable and less time-consuming than litigation. The main types of ADR are:

  • Negotiation
  • Arbitration
  • Mediation
  • Conciliation
  • Neutral Evaluation


Negotiation is usually the first step of ADR. Negotiation allows the disputing parties to meet and have a dialog about possible ways to resolve their dispute. The main advantage of negotiation is that it allows the disputants to retain total control of the proceedings. Unfortunately, many disputes are too severe to be resolved through negotiation.


The most common type of arbitration is binding arbitration. In binding arbitration one or more people external to the dispute are selected to resolve the issue. Both parties agree to the terms of arbitration, and when the arbitrator(s) reaches a decision, it is binding. If one party fails to live up to the arbitrators decision, the non-breaching party can take them to court for breach of contract.


Mediation is essentially a negotiation with the benefit of a facilitator, or mediator. Since mediation is less formal than arbitration, it allows for a bit more flexibility. For example, a mediator may meet with the disputants individually (ex parte) to seek an amicable resolution. If the dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, the mediator can declare an impasse and the case will proceed to arbitration or litigation.


Conciliation is commonly used in labor disputes, but also applies to other types of law. Like in mediation, both parties sit down with a neutral third-party to attempt to resolve their dispute. However, unlike a mediator, a conciliator takes an active role in moving the disputants toward a resolution. While a mediator facilitates an environment where the disputants can reach a resolution, a conciliator usually has some kind of authority relevant to the dispute and takes on more responsibility for its solution.

Neutral Evaluation

In neutral evaluation, each party presents his or her case individually to an independent, third-party evaluator. The evaluator then renders a non-binding decision and offers some possibilities as to how the dispute might be resolved. Evaluators are typically selected because they are experts in a field relevant to the dispute, and neutral evaluation is commonly used in technical or complex disputes where specialized knowledge is required. Disputants will often use the evaluator’s advice as a basis for negotiation.

Put an Expert on Your Team

Not every lawyer is an ADR specialist. No matter which type of Alternative Dispute Resolution is appropriate for your dispute, an experienced attorney on your side will be an invaluable asset.

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