ADR - the Evolving Landscape; Robert Harrison FCIArb, Chartered Arbitrator and Chairman of CIArb West Midlands Branch, Looks at the Alternatives to Litigation When Resolving Disputes

Article excerpt

Disputes - whether commercial or workplace - inevitably happen from time to time in most businesses. Choosing an appropriate means of dispute resolution is crucial to keeping costs, delay and stress to a minimum.

Going to court - litigation - is perhaps the traditional method we think of to resolve disputes, but it is not the only option.

Commercial arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) have evolved to meet the needs of businesses for flexible dispute resolution processes outside the courts.

The present economic situation has accelerated a global trend in favour of ADR, as businesses look for more costeffective ways of resolving disputes. ADR is firmly established in the modern commercial and legal landscape.

It is a broad term which can encompass many different forms of non-court dispute resolution, from the formal, legally binding process of arbitration held in private by an arbitrator with specialist knowledge of the industry in question, to non-binding processes such as mediation and conciliation.

ADR processes are widely used commercially because they are generally faster, less costly and more flexible than litigation. They are voluntary, private and generally less adversarial and stressful than going to court, helping parties to preserve business relationships.

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) is the leading worldwide professional membership organisation for ADR.

It has a global membership of around 12,000 qualified dispute resolution professionals and operates through an international network of 33 branches in more than 110 countries. The West Midlands Branch of CIArb includes members from a diverse range of professions including solicitors, barristers, consultants, commercial managers, loss adjusters, insurance brokers, surveyors, engineers - even a vet!

Founded in 1915 and granted a Royal Charter in 1979, CIArb provides professional training and world-recognised qualifications, as well as events, resources and networking opportunities at local and international level, for members and non-members.

CIArb has witnessed a sustained increase in interest in ADR globally. Here we take a look at some of the most popular forms and how they are developing.

The growth of mediation Mediation has become increasingly popular in recent decades. It is a structured, non-binding form of negotiation assisted by a third-party. A flexible process, it involves joint and private meetings where the mediator helps the parties clarify the key issues and differences between them and construct their own settlement.

Most mediations last one or two days and the vast majority reach settlement within that time.

Mediation is actively encouraged by the courts through the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) introduced in England and Wales by CIArb Fellow Lord Woolf in 1999.

The CPR require the courts to encourage parties to reach a settlement outside court. Many courts now frequently steer parties towards mediation before they embark on litigation and impose cost sanctions on parties if they unreasonably fail to attempt mediation. …