Alternative dispute resolution refers to any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom. It typically includes early neutral evaluation, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration.
Mediation is usually attempted first. It allows the parties to meet to settle a dispute. The main advantage of this form of dispute settlement is that it allows them to control the process and the solution.
Mediation is also an open alternative to litigation. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiations, who bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both sides accept or reject.
Arbitration is a simplified version of a trial involving limited discovery and clear rules of evidence. The arbitration is headed and decided by an arbitral panel. To comprise a group, either both sides agree on one arbitrator, or each side selects one arbitrator, and the two arbitrators elect the third. Arbitration hearings usually last between a few days to a week, and the panel only meets for a few hours per day. The committee then deliberates and issues a written decision or arbitral award. Opinions are not public record.