Alternative dispute resolution could be the decision of the parties involved, court-ordered or a clause in a contract that is the matter being litigated. Many matters are now going to ADR instead of courts due to the high cost of litigation. In many contracts, there are clauses that matters must go to binding arbitration instead of courts, meaning that the parties may not sue in a civil court. Many divorcing couples may opt for mediation so they can determine the outcome of the division of property.
Arbitration is a common form of alternative dispute resolution. In arbitration, the parties typically select a panel of arbitrators, often three. The arbitrators themselves are often lawyers. In many cases, one party will pick one arbitrator, the other side will pick one and the third will be selected by a neutral party. The two parties will make their case before the panel, who will reach a decision and may make an award. The arbitration may be binding, meaning the parties must stick with the results, or nonbinding, meaning they can go to court if the result doesn't work for one of the parties.
Mediation is also a popular form of ADR. In mediation, the two sides pick one lawyer as mediator. The mediator will work with both sides, advising them on the legal consequences of their decisions, and help them reach a compromise. Civil courts frequently order clients to go to mediation before going to trial. Collaborative law is a form of mediation popular with divorcing couples. Mediation is nonbinding, meaning that if the parties cannot reach an agreement, they may go to court.
Alternative dispute resolution lawyers may be civil attorneys practicing in arbitration, or attorneys that specifically practice mediation.
Civil litigators can often serve in matters of arbitration. However, mediation is an entirely different skill. Many lawyer who practice mediation become certified in their states, or are members of professional organizations of mediators, like the Association of Attorney-Mediators, where they have access to continuing legal education and publications to keep them up to date.