What are alternative dispute resolution methods?


Traditionally, all disputes were settled either in or out of court. Parties to a business or private disagreement would resolve to see the other party in court, and that would be the end of negotiations, as battle lines were drawn out, legal advice sought, and solicitors appointed. This was the way in all disputes from commercial contracts to neighbourhood boundaries to family law. 
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has emerged as an alternative to court and is today growing in popularity. Although not essential, many parties to ADR retain a solicitor to represent them, as in some cases the decision of the body engaged to settle the dispute can have the force of law. 
ADR comes in two main flavours. Mediation is a form of ADR which is entirely voluntary. Both parties can agree to mediation, but are free to leave at any time if they feel that the process is not working or that they would like to try something else. Mediation is facilitated by an independent mediator whose role is to get the parties together, or at the very least to hear submissions from both sides.
The mediator is purely a facilitator, and offers no decision or binding judgement. Despite this they are often solicitors or barristers or have some specialist training, and so mediators are usually able to offer some legal advice on matters arising during the mediation process. 
The other main type of ADR is arbitration. Arbitration is more commonly used in business and commercial disputes by parties looking for a definitive outcome. Arbitration hearings are heard by an independent arbitrator who receives submissions from both sides either in writing or orally, before delivering a decision which is binding on both parties.
Arbitration decisions have the force of law and hence both parties must consent to the use of arbitration beforehand and cannot then pull out later. As a result, arbitration hearings almost always involve solicitors, whilst mediation can be approached without a solicitor.
If you would like to obtain legal advice on alternative dispute resolution, Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.
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