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The Different Meanings of ADR

There is nothing new about ADR: The Chinese were using it to resolve disputes three thousand years ago 1) and it has existed in North America for some decades 2). ADR has a number of different meanings in different contexts. The traditional way to examine ADR is as a range of possible techniques. The following list was published in 2010 3):

  1. In-house complaints procedures: many ADR schemes stipulate that individuals must have exhausted the company's in-house complaints procedures before using the ADR mechanism.
  2. Mediation: mediation is conducted confidentially and consists of an independent third party actively assisting the parties in working towards a negotiated agreement of a dispute.
  3. Conciliation: this is a process similar to mediation but in whìch the neutral third party takes a more active role in putting forward terms of settlement or an opinion on the case.
  4. Arbitration: in arbitration an independent third partv considers both sides in a dispute, and makes a decision that resolves the dispute. ln most cases the arbitrator's decision is legally binding on both sides.
  5. Adjudication: like arbitration, adjudication involves an independent third party considering the claims of both sides and making a decisíon. This usually produces a decision that is binding on the company but not on the consumer
  6. Ombudsman schemes: ombudsmen are independent, impartial intermediaries who consider complaints. The particular mechanisms of ombudsman schemes vary but they often combine neutral face-finding, mediation and adjudication in various tiers.
  7. Legal mechanisms: formal legal acrìon is usually che lase resort employed by consumers to obtain redress. consumers can, however, rake legal action without going through other mechanisms if they wish.


1) S Roberts and M Palmer, Dispute Processes. ADR and the Primary Forms of Decision-Making (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

2) M Shapiro, Courts. A Comparative and Political Analysis (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1981).

3) Mapping UK consumer redress. A summary guide to dispute resolution systems (Office of Fair Trading, May 2010), available at .

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The "European Mediation Academy" (emeac) was approved as an IMI Qualifying Assessment Program by the International Mediators Institute (IMI)  in January 2019. 

Victor Schachter, a well-known business mediator and distinguished ex-lawyer from the United States, a great partner Law Firm Fenwick & West LLP, Silicon Valley, California and President of the "Foundation for Sustainable Rule of Law Initiatives"  was spüeaking in Zagreb about the chance for attornes to see mediation as an opportunity. He made it interesting, attractive, straightforward and clear for Croatian lawyers how mediation can simultaneously increase the profitability and satisfaction of attorneys in everyday work.

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