Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provides a confidential and alternative method of tackling legal disputes which avoids going to court. The most common types of ADR are conciliation and mediation, arbitration and adjudication.
Conciliation and mediation
These involve an independent trained mediator to facilitate communication between the two parties having the dispute, with the aim of achieving a settlement or resolution. In general, mediation refers to the facilitation of communication whereas conciliation refers to any evaluative methods such as the making of recommendations as to an outcome. Conciliation is generally used for employment situations rather than commercial disputes. Conciliation is a compulsory process before an individual wishes to bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal.
This is more formal than mediation, and involves a process in which the dispute is resolved by the decision of an arbitrator (a nominated third party who is qualified to handle arbitration). The arbitration process can be particularly useful in disputes which require an understanding of technical knowledge and where privacy is important (eg to avoid disclosure of commercially sensitive information) or if there is an international element (ie to avoid multiple legal jurisdictions). It runs as a tribunal process and decisions are binding. Many contracts will contain an arbitration clause, which requires arbitration to be used in the case of a dispute.
This form of ADR is generally reserved for disputes which arise out of construction contracts. It is a relatively formal process which involves: providing a written Notice of Adjudication which sets out the brief details of the dispute; appointment of an agreed adjudicator; serving a referral notice which sets out the dispute in detail by the aggrieved party; a response to this referral notice (essentially the defence); and finally a decision being reached by the adjudicator within 28 days of the referral notice. This decision is final and binding.