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More About Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term that refers to settling legal disputes without going to trial. There are a number of different forms of alternative dispute resolution including arbitration (binding and non-binding), mediation, summary jury trials, mini trials and moderated settlement conferences. Generally, it is thought that ADR is less expensive and less time consuming than traditional litigation. Many states have voluntary, and some have mandatory, ADR programs in place.

If you would like to learn more about alternative dispute resolution, contact us, we are litigation attorneys who can answer your questions and help you decide if ADR is a good option for you.

Types of ADR

In arbitration, the parties submit their dispute to a neutral third party arbitrator (or a panel of arbitrators) who decides the case. Arbitration can be binding, in which the arbitrator has the power to render a decision that can be enforced by judicial means, or non-binding, in which the arbitrator renders an advisory finding that the parties can accept or reject.

Mediation is a common form of ADR in which the parties seek the help of a neutral third-party mediator to resolve their case through negotiation. Unlike arbitration, mediation is not adjudicatory and the parties have the power to decide how and if they will come to a resolution. The mediator does not issue a decision; he or she helps the parties reach an agreement by clarifying their positions and goals and encouraging them to work together. In a summary jury trial, the parties present their cases to a mock jury. The jury's findings are not binding; they just give the parties a preview of how things might work out in a real trial. Parties can agree to participate in summary jury trials, or sometimes, the court may order participation.

A mini trial is similar to non-binding arbitration or a summary jury trial, but in a mini trial, the attorneys present a summary of their cases to the parties' decision makers instead of a neutral third party. The decision makers then negotiate a settlement, generally without their attorneys present. Mini-trials are most effective in commercial disputes in which the parties are businesses that have relatively equal power.

A moderated settlement conference, also known as an early neutral evaluation, is similar to arbitration, but there is more interaction between the parties, attorneys and panelists. The panelists are typically attorneys who hear a shortened presentation of the case from each party and then issue a non-binding decision on liability and/or damages. The idea is that the decision, while not binding on the parties, will help them negotiate more constructively.

Advantages and Disadvantages Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution has a number of benefits, including:

- Shorter and more efficient that typical litigation and trial
- Less expensive than trial
- Parties can retain control of the outcome and come up with solutions that work for them
- Confidentiality agreements may protect sensitive information, whereas many court documents are public records

ADR does have some disadvantages as well, including:

- If a resolution is not reached and the parties proceed to trial, there may be unnecessary delay and expense
- Parties may use ADR as a "free" discovery tool to obtain information about the opposing party's trial strategies
- No legal precedent will be created
- Some parties prefer to have a jury resolve their disputes
- If the parties have a difficult relationship, face-to-face negotiations can may make things worse

There are a number of different factors that a party should consider when deciding whether to use alternative dispute resolution. The attorney and client should consider the client's goals and interests. If the client wants a quick resolution to the case, ADR may be a good option. The subject matter of the case may also be a determining factor in the decision of what type of ADR to use. A law firm who has the experience in litigation and ADR, as Simmons and Associates has, can evaluate your situation and explain the options available to you. We are available for phone consult or free online evaluation, Call 301-986-8444. .