Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) gives parties in dispute the opportunity to work through disputed issues with the help of a neutral third party. It is generally faster and less expensive than going to court.
When used appropriately, ADR can:
- save a lot of time by allowing resolution in weeks or months, compared to court, which can take years.
- save a lot of money, including fees for lawyers and experts, and work time lost.
- put the parties in control (instead of their lawyers or the court) by giving them an opportunity to tell their side of the story and have a say in the final decision.
- focus on the issues that are important to the people in dispute instead of just their legal rights and obligations
- help the people involved come up with flexible and creative options by exploring what each of them wants to achieve and why.
- preserve relationships by helping people co-operate instead of creating one winner and one loser.
- produce good results for example, settlement rates for alternative dispute resolution are up to 85 per cent.
- reduce stress from court appearances, time and cost.
- keep private disputes private - only people who are invited can attend an ADR session, unlike court, where the proceedings are usually on the public record and others, including the media, can attend.
- lead to more flexible remedies than court, for example by making agreements that a court could not enforce or order (for example a change in the policy or practice of a business).
- be satisfying to the participants, who often report a high degree of satisfaction with ADR processes.
- give more people access to justice, because people who cannot afford court or legal fees can still access a dispute resolution mechanism.
Other points to consider about ADR
It is important that ADR is used in a way that is appropriate and likely to lead to the best results for all parties.
These are some things to take into account when considering whether to use ADR and which type is most appropriate for you.
- ADR may not be suitable for every dispute, for example if the dispute involves a matter of public interest, it may be more appropriate to have a court judgment to set a precedent.
- Where a binding agreement is made (for example through negotiations or use of ADR), parties normally give up the right to go back to court about the same matter. Similarly, an award made at arbitration is generally binding and cannot appealed except in limited circumstances.
- Some agreements made at ADR may not be as easy to enforce as a court or tribunal order. In some cases this can be addressed by having the terms of an agreement made into orders by consent by a court or tribunal. You can also get legal advice or further information about other ways of making ADR agreements and decisions binding.
- If ADR is not successful and you have to go to court in the end, trying ADR first might add to your legal costs. However, in general, ADR has very high rates of success.
- When deciding whether or what type of ADR is suitable for your dispute type, you may wish to seek legal advice from your lawyer. You may also get some free legal information and referrals from LawAccess on 1300 888 529.