What is ADR?
Alternative dispute resolution refers to ways of settling civil disputes outside the courtroom.
This generally means arbitration and mediation - courses selected by opposing parties in disagreement who would rather avoid crowded dockets, potentially higher costs, and drawn-out litigation.
Arbitration is a simplified version of a trial. A dispute is submitted to a third party for a decision, which may be binding or non-binding (advisory). In either case, the arbitrator - a neutral person or panel of neutral persons - hears each side's presentation of evidence and arguments, then makes a determination in favor of one or the other. The disputing parties must agree in advance that the arbitrator's decision (typically an award) is final. And, unlike arbitration through the courts, ADR programs can arbitrate cases involving any amount of money in question.
Mediation is a process for resolving disputes with the aid of a neutral person, in this case an attorney trained in negotiation. The mediator's role involves identifying the issues in question, and exploring and negotiating settlement options - by meeting with each party privately or both sides collectively in the same room. (All information is held in confidence by the mediator).
It is not the mediator's job to decide the outcome; the parties in the dispute and their counsel must agree to any resolution. Mediation is an even less formal alternative to litigation than arbitration, as agreements approved by either party or counsel are not binding.