alternative dispute resolution
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
You’re stuck in a serious dispute, but you’re desperate to avoid the hassle and expense of a court case. You’ve heard about alternative dispute resolution but are not sure what it entails.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a collective term for the ways that parties can settle disputes, with (or without) the help of a third party. The three most common alternative dispute resolution techniques are mediation, arbitration, and a mediation-arbitration hybrid (med-arb) that may be beneficial in resolving certain disputes.
During mediation a neutral third party facilitates a discussion between disputants with the hope that they can reach a voluntary agreement at the end of the process. Mediators have a range of styles that may range from frequently meeting separately in caucus with parties to only meeting as a group.
In arbitration a neutral third party listens to each side of a conflict and then makes a binding decision about the dispute. Arbitrators hand down decisions that are usually confidential and that cannot be appealed.
Med-arb is a hybrid between mediation and arbitration. In this format, the discussion begins with the third party acting as a mediator. If the disputants are unable to reach a decision, the third party then becomes an arbitrator and makes a binding decision about how to resolve the conflict.
How should you decide which alternative dispute resolution process to choose? Answer three questions, based on the type of dispute you are facing, to ensure that you choose the right method.
- What are my goals? Simply knowing what you want to get out of the dispute resolution process can help you decide where to start.
- Which process will capitalize on the best features of the dispute? Every dispute has features that can help you reach a beneficial outcome.
- Which process will best overcome barriers to resolution? Consider the ability of the three different alternative dispute resolution methods to help you overcome barriers to settlement. When parties are having trouble communicating and have a strong desire to air their feelings, mediation is often the best choice. When parties have different opinions regarding the law affecting their case, an arbitrator’s expertise ultimately may be needed.
Learn how you can improve your dispute resolution skills in this free report, Dispute Resolution, Working Together Toward Conflict Resolution on the Job and at Home, from Harvard Law School.
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