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We look after YOU

Nowadays you do not have to go to court to resolve a dispute, there are other ways to do it too. These other ways are often lumped together under the phrase 'Alternative Dispute Resolution', or ADR for short, 'alternative' meaning alternative to going to court.

ADR comes under various different titles, often including the word 'mediation' or 'conciliation'. In essence, they involve a meeting between the parties and a neutral third person who plays a role a bit like a referee. However in most cases there is one very important difference, namely that this referee cannot make any decisions.

All this particular referee can do is listen to the parties, talk to them, and try to encourage and help the parties to come to an agreement, or at least lessen their differences. But if they cannot or will not then he cannot impose a solution. He cannot rule on the rights and wrongs of the dispute. He helps but he cannot impose.

So why bother? You might think that if your opponent will not agree with you and this referee cannot impose a solution, what is the point of the process? The answer to that may be that there is none, and so there is no point bothering with it. You may as well go straight to court.

However, there is also a very good argument for trying even if you think it is indeed hopeless. In a disagreement people sometimes become entrenched. They sometimes adopt positions that just aren't right and then feel too embarrassed to back down. The ADR process involves a lot of talking and in that situation people sometimes find a way to get themselves 'off the hook' without losing face.

It is however perfectly possible for the parties to a dispute to agree that the referee can make decisions that will bind the parties. This is known by the title 'Arbitration'.

All ADR, of whatever form, is private. This means the public are not allowed in. It also means that it is almost invariably agreed that the parties will not refer to anything that goes on in the meeting except any agreement that may be reached. So if nothing is agreed the disputing parties carry on, to court if necessary, and it is almost as if the ADR never happened. The judge at court will know that ADR took place, but he will not know anything about what was said in it or why it failed to produce a solution.