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Many civil disputes can be resolved without the time and expense of traditional civil litigation. The Massachusetts  Trial Courts encourage parties in civil cases to explore the option of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The Essex County Dispute Resolution Services (ECDRS) is a service of the Essex County Bar Association which provides experienced lawyer-mediators and lawyer-arbitrators to assist in bringing civil cases to an early and less costly conclusion.  Unlike many other mediation services, all neutrals provided by ECDRS are practicing attorneys who have an intimate knowledge of the areas of law and courts by virtue of their expertise.


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the term applied to a variety of dispute resolution processes that are often preferred over a courtroom trial. ADR processes include arbitration, mediation, mini-trials, and master’s hearings.  


 Advantages of ADR over court litigation are: 

 1.  Saves money. Litigation costs can skyrocket.  ADR often produces earlier settlements, and can save parties and courts money which might otherwise be spent on litigation costs (attorneys fees and court expenses). 

2.  Saves time. ADR can save time. Even in complex cases, a dispute can be resolved through ADR in a matter of weeks, while a lawsuit can take years.

3.  Greater satisfaction. ADR sessions promote communication and cooperation and discourage the adversarial attitude often found in litigation.  In addition, parties can be heard.  Traditionally, courtroom litigation focuses on parties’ legal rights and responsibilities; it does not include their interests and concerns as does ADR.


 Although there are several various types of ADR, the most commonly used processes to resolve disputes are Mediation and Arbitration.

 1.  Mediation:  A voluntary, informal, confidential process in which the mediator (a neutral third party) facilitates settlement negotiations. The mediator improves communication by and among the parties, helps parties clarify facts, identify legal issues, explore options and arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.

 2.  Arbitration:  The arbitrator hears evidence presented by the parties, makes legal rulings, determines facts and makes an arbitration award. Arbitration awards may be entered as judgments in accordance with the agreement of the parties  Arbitrations can be binding or non-binding, as agreed by the parties in writing.

Please contact Executive Director Pamela Surette at p.surette@essexcountybar.org or 978.741.7888 for more information.