Most disputes are resolved short of trial, either through processes that take place in the shadow of the traditional litigation process or outside of it altogether. In fact, lawyers now represent clients in a wide range of dispute resolution processes — negotiation, mediation, collaborative law and arbitration, for example — included under the general heading of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR.
Depending on the process selected and the conduct of the lawyers involved, ADR processes can meet a wider range of the parties’ goals, including not only those that are being litigated but also the broader financial, relational and emotional ones.
ADR is a rapidly growing field nationally and internationally. It is used in almost all areas of law, including business, family, real estate, elder, sports, intellectual property and even criminal. A growing number of courts and jurisdictions either mandate participation in ADR or sponsor ADR programs as a part of the judicial dispute resolution process.
The lawyer of today must be an expert not only in substantive areas of law but also in the available processes for resolving legal disputes:
As a counselor, a lawyer must be prepared to advise clients about the potential benefits and costs of different models of dispute resolution.
As an advocate, a lawyer must be prepared to represent clients in different types of processes with different techniques.
As a citizen, a lawyer should analyze dispute resolution processes and advocate for those that meet the needs of the stakeholders affected by them and the greater society.