Explore the Power of Alternative Dispute Resolution
Resolving legal disputes can be challenging and costly. Fortunately, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is effective and efficient. Moreover, it provides individuals and businesses with a faster, more cost-effective, and often less contentious way to resolve disputes.
Our law firm includes three certified mediators and arbitrators versed in ADR options on family, business, and estate administration. So, contact us if you think an ADR program may be helpful. We have law offices in Norristown, Wayne, and Doylestown, PA.
What is ADR?
Essentially, ADR refers to any method of resolving disputes without litigation.
Alternative dispute resolution is when a mediator or arbitrator helps people in a disagreement reach a solution. Mediation and arbitration are two prevalent types of alternative dispute resolution, each offering an alternative to litigation. For example, mediators help parties compromise and settle their disputes themselves. Conversely, arbitrators award decisions outside of the courtroom.
Civil suits between individuals and businesses often rely on the ADR process. Disputes can relate to any number of circumstances, such as:
- Family and divorce
- Housing issues
- Environmental concerns
- Business issues
- Consumer issues
- Personal injury
A public court can review the validity of ADR processes. However, they typically don't alter ADR decisions. That's true as long as both parties agree to abide by the processes in a valid contract.
Resolution processes with ADR seek to settle disputes outside traditional courtroom settings. That, in and of itself, can be a substantial advantage. After all, how many people want to spend their time in court?
But ADR offers other advantages:
- Faster Resolution to Disputes: ADR typically resolves disputes faster than litigation, which can drag on for months and sometimes years.
- Cost: It stands to reason that if you can avoid a court battle, you'll save a lot of money. You'll eliminate court fees, not to mention attorney costs that average around $288 an hour in Pennsylvania. Even if you don't want to put a cost on your time, you'll save there as well.
- Confidentiality: The dispute resolution process is confidential so that you can protect any sensitive subject matter.
- Control of Outcomes: In court, a judge or jury determines the outcome of your dispute. With ADR, you can negotiate and draft a more custom solution that better serves both parties.
- Preserving Relationships: Court cases can become contentious, pitting one side against another. Alternate dispute resolution helps preserve relationships. That's why it's often a good process for family and business disputes.
Alternate Dispute Resolution Options
Numerous ADR options are available for settling disputes. Some of the more common options, however, include:
Negotiation is the starting point for ADR. Mediation and arbitration may be the best known, but parties typically try to negotiate first. The upside is that negotiation is generally informal and offers excellent flexibility. The parties get to control the process and potential solutions.
Mediation involves a neutral third party, the mediator, who helps the parties involved reach a mutually acceptable resolution. It encourages open communication and problem-solving.
Mediation is not binding and is used for a gamut of case types. They range from juvenile felonies to federal government negotiations with third parties. Mediation has also become a significant method for resolving disputes between investors and their stock brokers.
Mediation has a high success rate, with over 85% of disputes settled.
Types of Mediation for ADR
There are three types of mediation:
- Facilitative: The mediator will help the parties discover common ground, evaluate their offers, counteroffers, and concessions, and facilitate an agreement without giving the mediator's opinion.
- Evaluative: The mediator engages in many aspects of the facilitative process but then gives each party an evaluation of their respective positions. The evaluation may help the parties reconsider positions and reach a settlement based on how they receive the evaluation.
- Mediation-Arbitration: In the case of an impasse, the parties agree they will arbitrate the issues causing an impasse and be bound by the mediator's decision. Generally, the information disclosed in private caucuses is no longer confidential, and the parties must agree to waive the confidentiality requirements to engage in arbitration with the mediator after participating in private discussions.
In arbitration, a neutral arbitrator or panel reviews the evidence and makes a binding decision. More formal than mediation, binding arbitration is generally quicker and less expensive than litigation.
Arbitration does include some of the formalities of court proceedings, like discovery and some rules of evidence. However, the rules of evidence are relaxed to support fact-finding. Equally important, the arbitrator is usually an industry expert with better insight into issues than judges.
It also adheres to relevant federal and state laws governing arbitration. That said, the parties can change the rules if they all agree. Otherwise, the arbitrator is the decision maker on the outcome.
Often, using arbitration for ADR takes two paths.
First, the parties can agree in advance to limit any awards to pre-set minimums and maximums. That serves to limit each party's risk.
Second, the sides can make a final offer and demand and forward it to the arbitrator. Then, the arbitrator chooses without modification.
In neutral evaluation, each party presents 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. They also provide insights into dispute resolution, although their input isn't binding.
Typically, the evaluator is an expert in the dispute area. Their opinion often forms the basis for negotiating a dispute resolution.
Settlement conferences can be mandatory or voluntary. In either type, the parties and their attorneys meet with a judge or a neutral person called a "settlement officer." During that meeting, they discuss the settlement of their dispute.
The judge or settlement officer doesn't decide the case. Instead, they assist the parties in evaluating the case's strengths and weaknesses and negotiating a settlement. With an impending trial, the parties often hold a mandatory settlement conference.
ADR for Family, Business, and Estate Administration Disputes
As mentioned, our law firm specializes in these three areas, focusing on arbitration and mediation as ADR options.
ADR Family Law
Family law disputes are challenging and stressful, mainly when they go to court. Mary Cushing Doherty is an experienced family law attorney certified in mediation and arbitration for ADR family law. With over 40 years of experience, she focuses on divorce, custody, child support, and spousal support.
ADR Estate Administration
Like family law concerns, estate administration issues can get intense. Disputes arise over the validity of wills, executor failures, and beneficiary designations. Donald Petrille Jr. helps clients with wills, trusts, estate planning, and probate.
ADR in Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks County, PA
Our team of experienced ADR professionals can help you find fair and lasting solutions to your legal disputes. As attorneys, we understand the threat caused by lawsuits. Our goal is to swiftly resolve your challenge using an alternative dispute resolution.
Don't let disputes disrupt your life or business. Contact our firm if you're in Montgomery, Delaware, or Bucks County. We'll take the first step toward a resolution that works for you.