Why Alternative Dispute Resolution?

The use of alternatives to litigation for dispute resolution continues to grow at a rapid pace.  Litigation is now viewed as one choice among a number of dispute resolution choices.  The choices available to a person or business that have a dispute with another party, in addition to litigation consulting services, are known collectively as "alternative dispute resolution" or "ADR".

The alternatives to litigation and litigation support include: mediation; mediation / arbitration; neutral evaluation; fact-finding and arbitration.  Each of these processes, unlike the formal process and strict rules of litigation, provide to disputants the ability to choose and adapt a dispute resolution mechanism which will best serve their objectives and capacities to resolve a particular issue in a more efficient and less adversarial manner. 

Litigation may well be the right choice to resolve a particular dispute.  There are times when it ought to be chosen.  Wise disputants and their counsel will also consider the other means of achieving the final resolution of a dispute.  Methods which are often less costly and time-consuming and provide to the disputants the opportunity to retain a significant measure of control over the process and participate in the crafting of the solution.

Instead of being forced into the often slow, expensive, technical and rigid process of litigation, disputants and their lawyers can now choose the dispute resolution process that best serves their needs.  The objective is not to value one process over the other but to choose the most effective method of dispute resolution - the most appropriate process to suit particular circumstances.  Increasingly, that choice is ADR.

In addition to considering ADR as an alternative to litigation when a dispute arises, individuals, business and governments at all levels are addressing dispute resolution before disputes arise.

ADR is often included in contracts as the method of resolving disputes should they arise.  This can be of great significance to valued, continuing business relationships which may be irreparably harmed by win-lose, slow, expensive and adversarial litigation.

By choosing a strategy with the capacity for adaptive change, disputants can meet and explain their underlying interests and search for middle ground.  This may be the starting point in the quest for a solution to a dispute.  If the negotiation process fails, the disputants may then turn to ADR processes which involve third party intervention.  As third party participation increases, the disputants relinquish more power to fashion their own resolution to the dispute.  The surrender of control is complete with binding arbitration where the arbitrator has the power to impose a solution to the dispute.

Up to the point of binding arbitration, ADR is the process whereby disputants are assisted by a third party to find their own solutions to their own disputes.  Each of the ADR processes, in varying degrees, contain elements that enable disputants to achieve a resolution of disputes in a more efficient and civil manner while avoiding the costly and drawn-out process of litigation which tends to make litigants captives of its process whereas the objective ought to be to design a process which is the captive of the disputants.

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