What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Even in the legal profession, there aren’t very many people who enjoy going to court. Aside from being a stressful and time-consuming experience, it is also expensive and can take substantial time to resolve a case. It is unsurprising, then, that other methods of solving disputes have arisen, to avoid the time and expense necessary to conclude matters in court. For those who have a conflict with someone else they want to resolve without going to court, there is always the option of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

ADR generally encompasses three kinds of dispute resolution: negotiation, mediation and arbitration. The first, negotiation, is commonplace and mostly informal, simply involving the parties in a dispute talking to one another and coming to an agreement. In this circumstance, the parties have total control over the terms of their deal, with no outside involvement. Ideally, a constructive negotiation would be the beginning and end of any dispute, but unfortunately, circumstances are not always so ideal.

The next kind of ADR, mediation, is when the parties to the dispute hire an impartial third party, known as a mediator, to direct the negotiation and help them come to a mutual understanding. The mediator keeps matters organized, allowing both sides to make their case and helping them to put together an arrangement that will, hopefully, resolve the conflict between them. Mediation is more formal than mundane negotiation, but less formal than arbitration or going to court, and it is also significantly cheaper. Mediators do not have authority to make decisions about the dispute, and any settlement reached through mediation would need to be enforced in a court proceeding if one side repudiates or breaches the agreement.

Finally, the last form of ADR is arbitration, which, like mediation, involves bringing in an impartial third party (known as an arbitrator) to help resolve the dispute. Unlike mediation, however, an arbitrator is empowered to make legally binding decisions about the dispute. While less formal and expensive than going to court, arbitrators nevertheless have great latitude in terms of what evidence they accept and how they resolve a dispute.  Once it is decided, an arbitration award is very difficult to overturn or reverse. This means that anyone who wants to resolve a problem through arbitration needs to be very careful, lest they wind up going to court to contest an arbitration award that is no better than what they could have gotten for just bringing a court case in the first place.

If you are considering an alternative method of resolving your dispute, contact an experienced attorney who can help you decide if ADR is right for your situation. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones & Sweeney are skilled in the areas of negotiation, mediation, and arbitration as well as other areas of alternative dispute resolution. Call (973) 256-0456 or fill out our contact form for a consultation.