Introduction to ADR
The AABC has professionals within its membership who are able, experienced and professionally qualified to assist the public in resolving misunderstandings, complaints and disputes without going to the expense and time of a court case. Also, many of the restrictions of a court proceeding are reduced or eliminated. The arbitration process is more flexible, and the hearing more relaxed and less stressful. With the cooperation of all concerned, results can be produced more quickly than a court decision - and at less expense.
Arbitration is a process where two or more parties, who have been unable to negotiate a solution to a problem, agree to put the matter to an independent neutral person to provide an answer, and to be bound by that decision.
Sound simple? It can be, and has been known to be used by people in all societies since the days of the early Greek civilization.
Why? Because merchants involved in commercial disputes, shipping companies and their customers, insurance companies and the insured, unions and employers, have all found over the years that the process works. It provides sensible results withouth having to go to court. The popularly of arbitration over the years (and in fact, centuries) shows that the system works well and efficiently for those who use it. For example, complaints under union-management collective agreements are routinely resolved by arbitration - and it is the rare case that goes to appeal.
There are similarities between arbitration proceedings and those of the courtroom.
- The arbitrator hears evidence from witnesses for the parties.
- Each side is represented by a spokeman or advocate
- The arbitrator listens to the arguments and produces a binding award, just as a court gives a judgment.
The differences between litigation / arbitration are:
- No long written pleadings (through briefs and written argument can be used and are sometimes very effective)
- Delays and extra "motions" are eliminated, or at least kept to a minimum
- The rules of evidence and formality are relaxed and less constrictive
Sometimes the parties to a dispute prefer a 3-person arbitration board rather than a single arbitrator. Each side nominates one person to the board and the nominees select a chairperson from our member list.
The capacity of our members to assist the public is not limited to arbitration. Some parties can be better served by mediation. This system of dispute resolution is even less formal than arbitration. The mediator cannot, and does not, make decisions which are binding upon the parties. Rather, the mediator acts as a "catalyst", a discussion leader and advisor, to assist the parties in settling their differences.
Unlike the arbitration process, which involves such things as hearings, the swearing of witnesses and the like, mediation is a process of exploration designed to find answers. The parties may not even be in the same room for some of the time. The mediator will shuttle between them for private talks to find out their real concerns, where they can "move" and how to bring about that movement.
Another option is for the parties to remit their differences to a Med-Arb process. This has proved useful and popular. The independent neutral will then first mediate the issues - but is also empowered to arbitrate those issues which mediation has failed to resolve.
Med-Arb lends itself to variations which the parties may create as they go along, whereas arbitration is more structured.