Alternative dispute resolution can often be a faster, cheaper and satisfactory means of settling disputes. Granted, that doesn’t mean that ADR is going to be right for everyone, and it won’t be the best choice for every dispute. However, it is certainly something to consider. There are a number of different techniques used in ADR, and if you’re considering it, you should be familiar with them.
Mediation utilizes the assistance of a go-between third-party member, referred to as a “mediator.” The mediator’s job is to help both parties reach some sort of mutual agreement. Your mediator can’t take sides, can’t force you to come to an agreement, and is not allowed to decide the outcome of the dispute. Mediators can be very helpful, but the agreements reached are typically non-binding. That means that if you still wish to pursue litigation after mediation, you are free to do so. During mediation, both parties can maintain a significant amount of control over the process.
Like mediation, arbitration also relies on the use of a neutral third party. Your arbitrator will act in a similar fashion to a judge during trial. Since disputes can get very technical and complex at times, your arbitrator will generally be an expert in an appropriate field. The arbitrator will listen to both parties’ grievances and then will pronounce a decision. Although similar to a trial in many ways, arbitration doesn’t follow all of the rules of evidence that a trial does. Arbitration can be either binding or non-binding.
If you’re comfortable with informal dispute resolution, negotiation may be an excellent option. It doesn’t have the formality of a trial or trial-like setting, nor is there a neutral third party present. A negotiation can be as informal as both parties make it, and it can be a good option if both parties are largely cordial with one another. Negotiations are open-ended, so they can be as quick or as lengthy as needed. Ultimately, the purpose of a negotiation is to reach some sort of agreeable compromise.
These are common ADR techniques used for construction dispute resolution, but this is not an exhaustive list. You should do your research and decide on the best course of action possible for you and your particular situation.