ADR is usually less formal, less expensive, and less time-consuming than a trial. ADR can also give people more opportunity to determine when and how their dispute will be resolved. Learn more about ADR programs available in the trial courts.
The most common types of ADR for civil cases are mediation, settlement conferences, neutral evaluation, and arbitration. Read more about these ADR processes, when they may or may not be appropriate or watch a video demonstration.
Be sure to check the court where your case is pending to learn about the specific ADR processes that court offers. Click here for links to superior court ADR programs for civil cases.
In mediation, an impartial person called a "mediator" helps the parties try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. The mediator does not decide the dispute but helps the parties communicate so they can try to settle the dispute themselves. Mediation leaves control of the outcome with the parties. Click the video on the left to see a demonstration of the mediation process.
Cases for Which Mediation May Be Appropriate
Mediation may be particularly useful when parties have a relationship they want to preserve. So when family members, neighbors, or business partners have a dispute, mediation may be the ADR process to use. Mediation is also effective when emotions are getting in the way of resolution. An effective mediator can hear the parties out and help them communicate with each other in an effective and nondestructive manner
Cases for Which Mediation May Not Be Appropriate
Mediation may not be effective if one of the parties is unwilling to cooperate or compromise. Mediation also may not be effective if one of the parties has a significant advantage in power over the other. Therefore, it may not be a good choice if the parties have a history of abuse or victimization.
In arbitration, a neutral person called an "arbitrator" hears arguments and evidence from each side and then decides the outcome of the dispute. Arbitration is less formal than a trial, and the rules of evidence are often relaxed. Arbitration may be either "binding" or "nonbinding." Binding arbitration means that the parties waive their right to a trial and agree to accept the arbitrator's decision as final. Generally, there is no right to appeal an arbitrator's decision. Nonbinding arbitration means that the parties are free to request a trial if they do not accept the arbitrator's decision. Click on the video to the left to see a demonstration of the arbitration process.
Cases for Which Arbitration May Be Appropriate
Arbitration is best for cases where the parties want another person to decide the outcome of their dispute for them but would like to avoid the formality, time, and expense of a trial. It may also be appropriate for complex matters where the parties want a decision-maker who has training or experience in the subject matter of the dispute.
Cases for Which Arbitration May Not Be Appropriate
If parties want to retain control over how their dispute is resolved, arbitration, particularly binding arbitration, is not appropriate. In binding arbitration, the parties generally cannot appeal the arbitrator's award, even if it is not supported by the evidence or the law. Even in nonbinding arbitration, if a party requests a trial and does not receive a more favorable result at trial than in arbitration, there may be penalties
In neutral evaluation, each party gets a chance to present the case to a neutral person called an "evaluator." The evaluator then gives an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of each party's evidence and arguments and about how the dispute could be resolved. The evaluator is often an expert in the subject matter of the dispute. Although the evaluator's opinion is not binding, the parties typically use it as a basis for trying to negotiate a resolution of the dispute. Click on the video to the left to see a demonstration of the neutral evaluation process.
Cases for Which Neutral Evaluation May Be Appropriate
Neutral evaluation may be most appropriate in cases in which there are technical issues that require special expertise to resolve or the only significant issue in the case is the amount of damages.
Cases for Which Neutral Evaluation May Not Be Appropriate
Neutral evaluation may not be appropriate when there are significant personal or emotional barriers to resolving the dispute.
Settlement conferences may be either mandatory or voluntary. In both types of settlement conferences, the parties and their attorneys meet with a judge or a neutral person called a "settlement officer" to discuss possible settlement of their dispute. The judge or settlement officer does not make a decision in the case but assists the parties in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case and in negotiating a settlement. Settlement conferences are appropriate in any case where settlement is an option. Mandatory settlement conferences are often held close to the date a case is set for trial. Click on the video to the left to see a demonstration of the settlement conference process.
Using ADR may have a variety of benefits, depending on the type of ADR process used and the circumstances of the particular case. Some potential benefits of ADR are summarized below.
Save Time A dispute often can be settled or decided much sooner with ADR; often in a matter of months, even weeks, while bringing a lawsuit to trial can take a year or more.
Save Money When cases are resolved earlier through ADR, the parties may save some of the money they would have spent on attorney fees, court costs, experts' fees, and other litigation expenses.
Increase Control Over the Process and the Outcome In ADR, parties typically play a greater role in shaping both the process and its outcome. In most ADR processes, parties have more opportunity to tell their side of the story than they do at trial. Some ADR processes, such as mediation, allow the parties to fashion creative resolutions that are not available in a trial. Other ADR processes, such as arbitration, allow the parties to choose an expert in a particular field to decide the dispute.
Preserve Relationships ADR can be a less adversarial and hostile way to resolve a dispute. For example, an experienced mediator can help the parties effectively communicate their needs and point of view to the other side. This can be an important advantage where the parties have a relationship to preserve.
Increase Satisfaction In a trial, there is typically a winner and a loser. The loser is not likely to be happy, and even the winner may not be completely satisfied with the outcome. ADR can help the parties find win-win solutions and achieve their real goals. This, along with all of ADR's other potential advantages, may increase the parties' overall satisfaction with both the dispute resolution process and the outcome.
Improve Attorney-Client Relationships Attorneys may also benefit from ADR by being seen as problem-solvers rather than combatants. Quick, cost-effective, and satisfying resolutions are likely to produce happier clients and thus generate repeat business from clients and referrals of their friends and associates.