Find an Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyer

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to any problem-solving methods or techniques for settling disputes outside of the courtroom. The range of forms that ADR can take is called the ADR continuum: negotiation, mediation, settlement conference, early neutral evaluation, mini-trial, summary jury trial, med-arb, arbitration.

Many of these techniques have been used throughout history, but have only recently become institutionalized because of the need for efficient and cost effective dispute settlement outside of the United States legal system. This is only because access to courts is becoming increasingly time consuming as well as stressful and expensive.

Alternative dispute resolution has also grown rapidly in the United States because of the political and civil conflicts of the 1960s. The new laws passed during that time, to protect the rights of individuals as well as to stop discrimination, caused more lawsuits to be filed in order to settle disputes. Thus more forms of dispute resolution were needed.


This is the process where the people involved in the dispute communicate with each other, directly, or indirectly about the issues on which they disagree in order to reach a settlement of their differences.


Mediation is one of the two most common forms of ADR. This is the process in which a neutral or impartial third party mediates communication between negotiating parties, thereby allowing the parties to reach a settlement. The mediators involved are individuals trained in negotiations that bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both parties accept or reject. Unlike an arbitrator, a mediator has no authority to impose a settlement or decide the law or facts. Rather, the mediator helps the parties define the issues, understand each others' perspective, and generate options for settlement.

Settlement Conference

A settlement conference is a process by which a neutral and impartial legal professional hears both sides of the case and conducts an informal assessment and negotiation session. Then they may advise the parties on the law and precedent relating to the dispute and suggest a settlement. As with mediators, this legal profession has not authority to impose settlement or decide the law.


Arbitration is the second of the two most common forms of ADR. This is the process by which a neutral third party (the arbitrator) hears and considers the arguments of the parties involved in the dispute and makes a decision based upon the law and the facts. At its best, arbitration provides a simplified and economical procedure for obtaining a prompt and equitable resolution of the dispute. Arbitration can be both binding and non-binding depending on the situation and court review is usually quite limited. Arbitration has long been used in labor, construction, and securities regulation, but is now gaining popularity in other business disputes.

What are some other ADR services that are available?

  • Conduction of settlement conferences for parties in litigation

  • Offering training in mediation, arbitration, facilitation or conflict management

  • Provides dispute resolution services for groups and organizations

  • Can act as a judge for a mini-trial

By Elysse Kimberlin           

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