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Alternative Dispute Resolution – The Alternative to Litigation

What is ADR?

Alternative Dispute Resolution refers to any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom. It includes early neutral evaluation, negotiation, mediation and arbitration. As the rising costs of litigation get higher and courtrooms become more congested, law firms have begun experimenting with ADR programs. ADR programs can be either voluntary mandatory by direction from the court. Click here for link to a neutral mediator for civil cases.


In mediation, an impartial person called a "mediator" helps the disputing parties to try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute. The mediator makes no decision on the dispute, but merely engage resolution methods to encourage parties to try to resolve it themselves. Mediation leaves control of the outcome with the parties.

Where Mediation May Be Appropriate?

Mediation is useful when parties have an existing working relationship they want to preserve. So, when business partners have a dispute, mediation may be the correct ADR process to use. Mediation is particularly effective when emotions seem to be getting in the way of resolution. An effective mediator will hear the parties out and help them communicate effectively with each other in a constructive manner.

Cases for Which Mediation May Not Be Appropriate

Mediation will most certainly not be effective if one or both parties are unwilling to cooperate or reach compromise. Mediation also may not be effective if one of the parties is at a significant economic advantage and economic power over the other.

Neutral Evaluation

In neutral evaluation, parties get a chance to present their case to a neutral person called an "evaluator." The evaluator will then give his opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of each party's evidence as well as arguments and then offer a solution as to how the dispute could be resolved. The evaluator should be an expert on the field of the subject matter.

Cases Where Neutral Evaluation May Be Appropriate

Neutral evaluation would be most appropriate in cases in which involve technical issues that require special expertise to resolve or where the only sticking point in the case is the quantum of damages.

Cases for Which Neutral Evaluation May Not Be Appropriate

Neutral evaluation would not be suitable where there are significant personal or emotional issues to resolving the dispute.

Court Directed Mediation

These settlement conferences are mandatory by order of court. The parties and their lawyers meet with a judge/mediator to discuss possible settlement of their dispute. The judge/mediator will not make a decision in the case but assists the parties by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case and in negotiating a mutually agreed settlement. These conferences are appropriate in any case where settlement is an option.

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