ADR stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution – a way of resolving disputes which is an alternative to a trial before a judge. ADR comes in a number of different forms, but the most significant for many purposes is mediation. The government strongly encourages the parties to a dispute to resolve it themselves, by mediation, and a party who refuses to try mediation may find that even if he is successful before a judge he is not awarded his costs.
A mediation is conducted by mediator. It takes place in private, usually on “neutral territory”, such as a set of rooms in an hotel or conference centre. The proceedings are informal and confidential, and “without prejudice” – nothing said in the mediation can be used in legal proceedings unless the mediation reaches a successful conclusion; in which case the mediator draws up a legally binding agreement to resolve the legal dispute, which all parties then sign. The mediator has no legal powers, and is not there to decide which party is “right”. His or her task is to act as a go-between in the negotiations, speaking to one side then the other and sometimes both together, helping the parties to understand each other’s point of view, exploring ways of settling the dispute and ultimately bringing the parties together.
Given that many disputes become acrimonious and entrenched, mediation is remarkably successful – it works in the majority of cases. There are several reasons for this, perhaps the main one being that unlike litigation it is non-confrontational. A mediator can also help by pointing out the risks of going to court. It’s easy for one party to feel very strongly that they have a legal right which the Court must therefore uphold. Real life is not so simple.
Andrew Barsby is an Accredited Mediator and is available to conduct mediations in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. His specialism is property disputes, including disputes about:
He welcomes enquiries from the parties to a dispute, or their respective solicitors.