Any way of resolving disputes between two or more parties despite litigation is called ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution). It is a method for disagreeing parties to come to an agreement and settle disputes. The validity of ADR methods may be reviewed by public courts but they will rarely overturn ADR decisions and awards.
ADR two major forms are arbitration and mediation. Negotiation, conciliation and collaborative law are typically involved in ADR as well to resolve the dispute between the parties. Through the negotiation parties meet to settle the dispute, i.e. negotiation helps the parties to help themselves. In this form, there is no third party: there can be a social worker or organizational ombudsperson coaching one or both parties behind the scene. Parties control the process and solution on their own.
Despite negotiation, there is a third party in mediation that brings the parties together to settle the dispute. The mediator facilitates resolution process and can even suggest a resolution, which is called “mediator’s proposal”. But the mediator is not eligible to impose the resolution process.
Arbitration like mediation involves a third party. In arbitration, decisions are made by the arbitration panel, members of which are comprised by either one (which is agreed upon by two parties) or two arbitrators (each party selects one arbitrator) and the two elect the third arbitrator. After the arbitration hearings that last few days, the arbitration panel deliberates a decision.
Collaborative law requires each party to have an attorney who facilitates the resolution process under the specific terms of contract. The attorneys don’t impose the resolution. Collaborative law is a part of litigation rather than ADR, but it happens to rely on ADR like the terms and processes.
In conciliation, parties use a conciliator to meet with them separately for discussing the issue in favor of understanding each party’s objections. It never happens that the parties meet around the table in the presence of conciliator. The conciliator usually writes no decision despite the arbitrator. And despite the mediator, the conciliator’s goal is to find concessions rather than to facilitate the discussion optimizing parties’ needs.
Overall, ADR methods are faster, less formal and cost-effective.