Welcome to the ADR Help and Resources section of FindLaw's Alternative Dispute Resolution center, which will help you learn about legal alternatives to traditional lawsuits. Arbitration is a less-formal process whereby disputes are handled outside of court, often by a retired judge (the arbitrator) and sometimes reinforced through court orders. Mediation is a more collaborative process in which a mediator facilitates the establishment of common ground among the parties in order to find solutions to the dispute. This section includes information about how to select and work with an arbitrator or mediator, plus resources to help you get started.
Do You Need an Attorney for ADR?
As a rule of thumb, you should hire a lawyer if more is at stake than the cost of hiring one. This holds true for arbitration as well, which is a "legal" process but without the involvement of the courts. One of the advantages of using an attorney for arbitration is their ability to walk you through the process, with which most people are not familiar. And since most people still have to work, manage a family, or otherwise get on with their day-to-day lives, an attorney can manage the process in a way that unburdens his or her client.
Lawyers with experience handling arbitration cases can also help their client put together a compelling presentation. It typically takes a lot of research and time to craft a presentation on one's own, and you may not know exactly which points in your argument will have the most influence on your arbitrator. When you represent yourself, which is not uncommon for arbitration, you may be too close to the dispute and unable to objectively analyze the situation.
Most mediations do not involve attorneys, but obtaining legal counsel for a mediation may be a good idea in certain situations. Unlike court cases or arbitration, mediation is not an adversarial process and requires the two parties to work out their dispute in a collaborative manner. The mere presence of an attorney can potentially sabotage this collaborative process. But in cases where substantial property or legal rights are on the line, it may make sense to consult with an attorney prior to the mediation.
Not all attorneys support mediation, however, so you want to make sure you work with an attorney who understands the process. Avoid attorneys who take your mediation case with the intention of directing you into a lawsuit.
How to Find an ADR Attorney
If you choose to work with an attorney for your mediation or arbitration, there are several important things to consider. First of all, you want to make sure the lawyer you hire has experience with ADR and fully supports the process. Even better, find an attorney formally trained in mediation or arbitration cases. As with any attorney, though, you want to find someone who you can work with -- someone with the right temperament, with whom you are able to clearly communicate.
Click on a link from the list below to learn more about getting help with your ADR case.