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How to Solve Your Dispute Without the Expense of Court

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a blanket term for various methods of resolving your legal dispute without going to court. It very often involves the inclusion of an independent third party to assist in resolving the dispute. ADR is actively encouraged by the courts and politicians and it forms part of the pre-action protocol in the Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Directions. Although the Rules require that the parties should consider whether either negotiation or some other form of ADR is appropriate, it is an entirely voluntary process and all parties can withdraw at any time. However, those who do not consider other forms of ADR must be prepared to explain why to the court.

There are several types of ADR; including mediation and conciliation, negotiation, expert determination and expert appraisal, Ombudsmen and many more. Which type of ADR to choose will depend on the type of issue you have. For example, expert determination may not be appropriate in a breach of contract dispute where the wording of a particular clause is being called into question. Choosing the right type of ADR can be difficult, but very important to ensure that time and costs are not wasted pursuing an inappropriate type of ADR.

There are many advantages to using ADR. In my view, the most prevalent and important advantage of ADR is that many forms are considerably cheaper than taking the dispute to court. Usually the third party will need to be paid for their services and it is highly recommended to instruct solicitors to assist with the settlement, however it will take considerably less time for the solicitors to prepare the case and will cut down on costs substantially. Further, ADR is very flexible, they do not have to comply with court deadlines or the Civil Procedure Rules making it a much more adaptable process. The commercial reality is that a realistic and workable settlement can be reached which could satisfy both parties and could preserve an otherwise rewarding business relationship between the parties. It is often a less confrontational approach and so it is much easier to continue the business relationship.

As with everything, there are disadvantages to ADR. One of the major disadvantages is that no one can be forced to participate and resolve a dispute using ADR. Unlike court, where parties have to participate if they wish to bring or defend the claim, it is an entirely voluntary prospect. Therefore, there is a risk that the dispute might be almost resolved through ADR and the other party might pull out at the last moment. Further the award is not so easily enforceable. Unlike court judgements or decisions of an arbitrator, you cannot just apply for enforcement of the court order or arbitration decision. You would have to bring a new claim for breach of contract and follow the relevant legal procedure.

An interesting point to note, which could be advantageous or not, is that the facts of the case may not be fully disclosed. In litigation, there are comprehensive and complex rules associated with disclosure which is not necessary to follow in the ADR process. Missing evidence could result in an inaccurate judgement either in your favour or not. However, a quick, albeit inaccurate decision, is more attractive to some than a more expensive, protracted claim through the courts.

So, if you have a legal dispute you would like to discuss with me, or if you have any queries about ADR, call me on 01133 50 40 30 or email me at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk and we can arrange a free 10-minute consultation to discuss your issues and how we can help.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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