Intro to Alternative Dispute Resolution:

Two men practicing ADR

Alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, involves processes which facilitate dispute resolution without the need to go to court. It has becoming increasingly popular in recent times, due to several factors, such as the increased caseload for courts, the cost savings compared to litigation.

ADR covers a range of resolution processes, primarily:

  • Facilitation
  • Negotiation
  • Conciliation
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration


  • The role of the facilitator is to help parties come to a decision.
  • Usually, facilitation occurs where there is no real conflict or disagreement between the parties.
  • Resolutions reached are not legally binding.


  • Probably the most common form of ADR.
  • Very flexible as the parties are free to negotiate between themselves- no reliance on a third party to adjudicate.
  • Parties work with their legal advisors to resolve disputes and reach an agreement.
  • A non-binding process, but parties still need to be aware of what they want to achieve.
  • Parties usually have the worst case and best-case scenario they are prepared to accept in mind before negotiating, and this creates a sort of area in which successful negotiation can occur.
  • The society offers a chance to try your hand at negotiation, in the annual commercial negotiation competition, open to all students regardless of degree or experience.


  • Parties look to reach a settlement with the help of a third-party conciliator. 
  • The conciliator is asked to provide a non-binding proposal to the parties, which is where it differs from mediation.
  • Parties are free to choose the conciliator, meaning they can look for a specialist on the matter. 
  • Parties rarely meet face to face, the conciliator acts as a go between for parties to interact with each other through.


  • An independent third party adjudicates between the other parties to find a mutually acceptable outcome. 
  • The goal is to find a resolution or settlement.
  • Mediators tend to deal with more volatile situations (compared to facilitators), where conflict or disagreements may have arisen between parties.
  • The solution is not binding, the mediator can only try to help structure an agreement, as with facilitation.
  • For it to become legally binding, a legal agreement containing the resolution must be signed.


  • More formal than the previous procedures, which makes it useful when dealing with technical matters, or private matters for which security is important.
  • Very useful for international disputes, to avoid dealing with multiple courts and jurisdictions. 
  • Arbitration is legally binding and is handled by an arbitrator who is once again a nominated third party.

Hopefully, this has helped you gain a general understanding of alternative dispute resolution and the processes involved. This is far from detailed and instead hopes to provide a starting point for a series of posts relating to both ADR as a discipline, and the work of the society over the coming year.

If you are interested in joining, you can purchase a membership at,, or feel free to reach out to any of our members who would be more than happy to help with any questions.

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