What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Describe several methods of resolving legal disputes without going to court. The rising cost of litigation is making traditional lawsuits impractical for many individuals and businesses. At the same time, civil courts face backlogged dockets, resulting in delays of a year or more for private parties to have their cases heard by a jury. New types of proceedings have been developed in response, proving beneficial, saving time and money for everyone involved.

Some old-school ADR options remain popular, including arbitration and mediation. Arbitration tends to be faster and cheaper than litigation, but it can be complex and challenging to navigate. Meanwhile, mediation works best when both parties come to the table in good faith.

Binding Arbitration, or Binding Dispute Resolution, is the situation where a private arbitration firm is used, and the parties agree to use that firm's rules.

The final decision is left to the arbitration firm, so it's legally binding.

When your lawsuit involves more than $5000, a well-trained attorney will generally advise you of the option of taking your case to arbitration rather than to court. Arbitration is less formal than a court trial and typically less time-consuming. So if you are looking to wrap up your case quickly or recover the damages immediately rather than waiting for a jury to decide, arbitration may be a smart move for your company.

The court will appoint a reputable attorney in the local area to perform the duties of the arbitrator. This person will act as a judge at an arbitration hearing, listening to the evidence and rendering a decision. Parties may be given some amount of say in the arbitrator selection process. At a minimum, they will be allowed to strike potential arbitrators with whom they have had prior dealings.

Arbitrator's office. Much like a pre-trial conference in civil court, this is the opportunity for the parties to give the arbitrator an overview of the case and to discuss any evidentiary issues in advance of the arbitration hearing. On the day of the hearing, the parties will meet in a conference room at the arbitrator's office or space at the courthouse. Each side will present its case over the course of several hours. Afterward, the arbitrator can render a decision immediately or take the matter under advisement and issue a written decision in the following weeks.

Settling through mediation means having both sides tell their story and respectfully listen to the other side to reach an agreement. This typically takes both parties out of their mindset and tries to make them more flexible and creative.

Arbitration is another method of alternative dispute resolution, but unlike mediation, the disputing parties are not brought together in a neutral location (such as the mediator's office or another site). Instead, arbitration involves the parties presenting their claims and defenses to an arbitration panel or decision-maker (for example, a panel of three arbitrators), who renders a decision. Arbitration, though similar to litigation in the adversarial form, is a more informal procedure, and no judge or jury is present, although an arbitrator can be instructed to issue either an interim or a final award, depending on the circumstances.

Mortgage Drive-By Mediation (MDM) is an efficient process that has recently caught the attention of mediators across the country. It represents a significantly faster, cheaper, and more convenient alternative to court or traditional in-person mediation.

Divorce and Collaborative Divorce describe an out-of-court process for couples or individuals with legal issues within a marriage.

Collaborative Divorce allows couples to resolve their issues outside of court. An appointed attorney helps both parties come to a resolution and makes sure all documents are appropriately filed. This process prepares both parties for marriage dissolution without a court showdown.

Collaborative Divorce allows both spouses to work with attorneys and other professionals (such as financial advisors and divorce coaches) to resolve their issues in a way that avoids a "win-lose" outcome. Then, the parties and their attorneys present the issues and supporting evidence to a judge for final approval.

ADR can also take the form of an evaluation and mediation-type proceeding overseen by a legal professional with specialized training in the subject of the dispute. Consider a construction defect case, for example. The parties may agree to present their case to a neutral person who is a real estate attorney and an architect. This person will have much more knowledge about proper construction techniques than the average judge or jury and may be able to help the parties resolve their differences at a far lower cost than traditional litigation.

Attorney Representation in ADR Cases

If you're looking to expedite the litigation process, ADR may be the correct answer. And regardless of the type of ADR proceeding you are considering.