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What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Our lawyers can represent you when personal and commercial relationships break down to the point you can no longer deal with a complex legal situation yourself. You might have a dispute with a business, a family member, or some other third party.  You may in fact feel as though the only way to overcome what seems like an unresolvable issue, is to go to court and let a judge decide.

Court proceedings can be very stressful, lengthy and unpredictable. As a business you will be looking for the most cost-effective, reliable way to settle a dispute. As a private individual you might not realistically have the means to fund a court case. For a host of reasons, not least these ones, parties in the context of modern litigation are encouraged to properly consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

The Civil Procedure Rules (often shortened to CPR) constitute the procedural code, with the principle aim of enabling courts to deal with cases justly and proportionately. The CPR requires parties to consider ADR before commencing proceedings. A refusal to think properly about non-litigious ways to settle matters before a claim is issued, can lead to sanctions in the form of financial penalties (usually connected with costs recovery following a win), or sometimes a ‘stay’ of proceedings (meaning a postponement) for parties to have a rethink about ADR.

But what is ADR?

ADR is a way to settle a dispute without the need for a court hearing. There are various types, and they can all have their own benefits and drawbacks depending on the nature of the dispute at hand.

A common form of ADR is negotiation, this can be done between the parties’ solicitors to help come to an agreement that both sides agree on. This can be undertaken quickly and easily by opening up a line of communication with other parties and their solicitors, if they are represented. This can be an effective starting point and potentially the end to some disputes. At Fosters we handle disputes early on in this way on a routine basis.

Negotiations might fail if the parties cannot find enough common ground to trigger some sort of resolution. In these circumstances we often recommend considering mediation as a key method of ADR.

Like negotiation in writing or around a table, mediation is a negotiation of sorts, but the key distinction is that it is assisted by a neutral third party, the mediator, who is often a specialist lawyer (with legal training in the appropriate field). They will speak with and move between the parties who are very often kept apart for the whole experience, to attempt to understand their side of the dispute and what in very real terms they are actually seeking.

The mediator will then help the parties move towards an agreement they can live with as an alternative to the more nuclear court option. Mediation agreements are usually unique to the parties and their specific differences, they are flexible and they can incorporate terms that a court might not have the power to order. A mediation can be organised and carried out much faster than a court case and the costs whilst not insignificant, are often a small fraction of litigation costs to trial.

If you would like more information about ADR and mediation in relation to a dispute, please get in touch with our experienced Litigation & Dispute Resolution experts.

We offer cost-effective initial consultations to deliver tailored advice about how to move forward in a way that suits you. Please call us on 01603 620508 or email the team directly.

This article was produced on the 27th January 2023 by our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.