Dispute Resolution:
Solving Arguments Without Going to Court

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Dispute resolution encompasses a range of processes aimed at resolving conflicts between parties without the need for formal litigation. Opting for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods can save time, reduce costs and maintain relationships that might otherwise suffer in a contentious court battle. This article explores various ADR techniques that have become vital tools for individuals, businesses and organisations looking to resolve disputes amicably and efficiently.


Mediation involves a neutral third party, known as a mediator, who helps the disputing parties find a mutually acceptable solution. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, the mediator does not issue a decision but facilitates dialogue and negotiation. Mediation is highly flexible and can be tailored to the needs of the parties involved. It is particularly effective in disputes where parties have a relationship they wish to preserve, such as business partnerships or family matters.


Arbitration is closer to a court proceeding but remains less formal and more flexible. An arbitrator, who is usually an expert in the field related to the dispute, listens to both sides before making a decision that can be either binding or non-binding, depending on the agreement between the parties beforehand. Arbitration is often faster than going to court and can be kept confidential, which is beneficial for parties concerned about public scrutiny.


Conciliation is similar to mediation, but the conciliator typically plays a more active role in suggesting terms of settlement. The conciliator might meet with the parties separately and offer solutions to help bridge any gaps. Conciliation is often used in labour disputes and international conflicts where an impartial expert can offer solutions to complex issues.


Negotiation is the most direct form of dispute resolution and involves the parties themselves discussing their issues and coming to an agreement. It can be informal and does not require the presence of a third-party facilitator, although parties sometimes opt to have legal representation. Negotiation offers maximum control over the outcome to the parties involved and can be conducted anytime before or during other forms of dispute resolution.

Early Neutral Evaluation

In early neutral evaluation, both parties present their cases to a neutral evaluator who is an expert in the subject matter of the dispute. The evaluator then gives an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of each case, the likely outcome if the case were to go to trial, and how best to proceed. This can lead to a more informed and, consequently, more productive negotiation or mediation process.

Ombuds Services

An ombudsman is an independent, neutral party available within many organisations to resolve internal disputes. They provide confidential, informal assistance to resolve issues and misunderstandings. Ombuds services are common in universities, large corporations and government agencies.

Online Dispute Resolution

Advancements in technology have led to the rise of online dispute resolution (ODR), which uses technology to facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties. It is particularly useful for small-scale disputes, such as consumer and small business disputes and can be very cost-effective.

The landscape of dispute resolution is diverse, offering various paths to achieving settlement without the need for costly and prolonged litigation. Whether through mediation, arbitration or other forms of ADR, parties can find appropriate and effective means to resolve their conflicts. Understanding and utilising these options can lead to better outcomes, preserving relationships, resources and peace of mind.

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