Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Defined with 4 Examples

When major conflicts arise, the path to resolution can be hard to make out. Disputes in business and commerce, and even some in personal relationships and community matters, may have traditionally been associated with litigation—a process that involves going to court and having a judge or jury decide the outcome. 

There is another option: an alternative approach known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can be a more efficient and cost-effective means of resolving conflicts. In this blog, our Wake Forest attorneys will answer the question: "What is alternative dispute resolution?”, as well as explore its principles and provide examples of its application across different domains.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Alternative dispute resolution, commonly known as ADR, refers to a set of processes and techniques designed to resolve conflicts and disputes outside the formal legal system. Unlike traditional litigation, which involves going to court and having a judge or jury decide the outcome, ADR methods provide parties with alternative avenues for resolving their differences in a more amicable and collaborative way.

What is alternative dispute resolution as defined by legal terms?

The primary goal of ADR is to facilitate effective communication, promote understanding, and arrive at mutually agreeable solutions without engaging in a lengthy and costly legal battle. ADR processes are often considered more flexible, private, and less adversarial than litigation, making them attractive options for individuals, businesses, and organizations seeking efficient conflict resolution.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution: Principles

Alternative dispute resolution requires the parties involved to play a major role in resolving their own conflicts. That requires a few key principles and values to be present for all of those parties: 


A fundamental principle of ADR is that participation is voluntary. Parties involved in a dispute must willingly agree to engage in the ADR process, ensuring that they maintain control over the resolution of their conflict. This voluntary participation fosters a more cooperative atmosphere, as opposed to the adversarial nature of traditional litigation.


Confidentiality is a cornerstone of ADR. The proceedings and discussions that take place during ADR are typically private and confidential, protecting the parties involved from public scrutiny. This encourages open and honest communication, as individuals can express their concerns without fear of repercussions outside the resolution process.


Alternative dispute resolution practitioners, often referred to as neutrals or mediators, are impartial third parties who do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the dispute. Neutrality is crucial to ensure that the ADR process is fair and unbiased. Mediators guide the parties through the resolution process, helping them identify common ground and facilitating communication.


Alternative dispute resolution methods are highly flexible and can be tailored to suit the specific needs of the parties involved. Whether through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or a combination of methods, ADR allows for creative and customized approaches to conflict resolution. This adaptability makes it well-suited for a wide range of disputes.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution: Types of ADR

What is alternative dispute resolution? Alternative dispute resolution encompasses all conflict resolution processes and techniques conducted independently of governmental authority. Among the notable ADR methods are mediation, arbitration, conciliation, negotiation, and transaction.


Negotiation is an informal and direct communication between parties with the goal of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. It is the most basic form of ADR and often precedes more formal processes. Negotiation allows parties to discuss their interests, needs, and concerns, working towards a compromise that satisfies both sides.


Mediation involves the intervention of a neutral third party, the mediator, who assists the disputing parties in reaching a voluntary and mutually acceptable resolution. The mediator facilitates communication, identifies common ground, and helps generate options for resolution. Mediation is widely used in family disputes, workplace conflicts, and community issues.


Arbitration is a more formal ADR process where a neutral arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators makes a binding decision on the dispute. The parties present their cases, and the arbitrator(s) render a decision based on the evidence and arguments presented. Arbitration is often chosen for its efficiency and finality, particularly in commercial disputes.


Conciliation as a form of alternative dispute resolution is a cooperative and facilitative process designed to resolve conflicts through the assistance of a neutral third party known as the conciliator. Unlike arbitration, where a decision is imposed, or mediation, where the mediator guides the parties toward a mutually acceptable solution, conciliation focuses on repairing relationships and fostering understanding. 

This approach makes conciliation particularly valuable in situations where preserving ongoing relationships is as important as resolving the specific issues at hand.


Transaction refers to a process aimed at settling conflicts through a negotiated agreement between the parties involved. In this method, disputing parties engage in discussions to reach a mutually acceptable resolution, often involving compromise and concessions. Unlike more formal ADR methods like arbitration or litigation, transactions rely heavily on the parties' willingness to collaborate and find common ground. 

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution in Action: Examples

Because many of the specific types of alternative dispute resolution sound fairly similar, we’ve broken down some examples to help guide you.

Workplace Conflict

A common application of ADR is in the resolution of workplace conflicts. Disputes between employees, management, or even between different departments can be addressed through mediation. By bringing in a neutral mediator, parties can discuss their concerns, explore solutions, and work towards a more harmonious work environment and hopefully eliminate the possibility of 5 Steps to Recover Your Reputation After a Business Litigation" aria-label="5 Steps to Recover Your Reputation After a Business Litigation" target="_self">business litigation.

Business and Commercial Disputes

In the business world, ADR is frequently used to resolve disputes arising from contracts, partnerships, or other commercial relationships. Arbitration is a popular choice for businesses seeking a faster and more cost-effective resolution than traditional litigation. The decision of the arbitrator is often binding, providing a clear and final resolution.

Family Law Matters

Family disputes, including divorce and child custody issues, are often emotionally charged and sensitive. Mediation is commonly employed to help divorcing couples reach agreements on matters such as property division, child custody, and spousal support. The confidential and collaborative nature of mediation can contribute to more positive outcomes for all parties involved.

Community and Neighborhood Disputes

ADR is also applicable in resolving conflicts at the community level. Disputes between neighbors, homeowner associations, or local businesses can be addressed through mediation. This approach encourages community members to actively participate in finding solutions that benefit everyone and maintain a positive community atmosphere.

Contact Our Raleigh Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyers Today

Alternative dispute resolution methods are preferred by many individuals, businesses, and communities over litigation because of their voluntary, confidential, and flexible nature, making them an attractive option for individuals, businesses, and communities seeking efficient and amicable solutions. At The Doyle Law Offices, we’ve been helping clients in Wake Forest and Cary with ADR for decades, with an ever-growing resume and client testimonials on our side. 

If you’re in need of an alternative dispute resolution, contact us today by calling  (984) 235-1067 or filling out the form below to get started.

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