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Alternative Dispute Resolution Research

Information about researching common ADR methodologies, including arbitration, negotiation, mediation, and more.

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What is "Alternative Dispute Resolution"?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a system of methodologies that parties can use to resolve disputes without resorting to litigation.  These include arbitration, mediation, negotiation, and more. 

The Legal Information Institute (LII) Wex online legal dictionary provides a helpful and succinct overview of ADR and its methods.

This research guide discusses materials and methods for researching ADR methodologies and practices in the Harvard Law School library and beyond.

HOLLIS: The Harvard Library Catalog

Use the HOLLIS online library catalog to find print and electronic materials in Harvard's libraries, including the law library.

This guide includes links to pre-populated HOLLIS searches that use either general keywords, Library of Congress Subject Headings, or both.

Links to HOLLIS searches in this guide appear in this format: 
HOLLIS: "Alternative Dispute Resolution" AND "Law OR Legal"

 

About the Linked HOLLIS Searches in This Guide

  • Linked searches are run in HOLLIS's "Everything" mode, which includes journal articles.
  • To search only for books owned by Harvard's libraries, run the search in HOLLIS's "Library Catalog" mode instead.
  • Most searches are deliberately broad.  
    • Limit the search results by (a) adding additional keywords to the search query, (b) refining the results using the options listed on the right side of the HOLLIS screen, or (c) both.

General ADR Research

Researching ADR Online

ADR Methodologies

Methods for Resolving Disputes

There are many methods that parties can use to resolve their legal and quasi-legal disputes without resorting to litigation.  They are described below.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a common method of dispute resolution that is used by contracting parties. If a contract has an arbitration clause and a dispute arises, a neutral arbitrator can issue legally-enforceable resolution to the dispute (an arbitration award). Advantages to arbitration include reinforcing the parties' freedom of contract, preserving confidentiality, saving legal fees, and, potentially, more limited discovery than a court trial.

Many types of legal disputes are resolved through arbitration, including:

  • Labor and employment disputes
  • Commercial disputes (especially if the contract has a mandatory arbitration clause)
  • Disputes governed by religious law, such as Jewish divorce cases

Arbitration: General Research

Arbitration: HOLLIS Searches

Arbitration Research in Subscription Databases

Westlaw

  • Content Page: Arbitration Materials (includes US and international awards, cases, rules, materials, and arbitrator profiles).
  • Topic and key number range for arbitration is 25T ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION > ARBITRATION, k110-439.
  • Westlaw's Practical Law Library also has a lot of materials related to ADR:
    • Topics > Arbitration: features libraries of standard documents and standard clauses for both the US and the UK.
    • Topics > Litigation > Arbitration & ADR (US): includes a general overview of ADR mechanisms in the US, as well as practice notes for arbitration-related procedures under both federal and state law.

Lexis+

  • For both the main Lexis+ database and the Lexis+ Practical Guidance library, type arbitration in the search box on the Lexis homepage to view arbitration materials, including sources, documents, and definitions of legal phrases.

International Arbitration

Arbitration is often used to resolve disputes arising in international commercial transactions. 

Court ADR

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE)

In Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), disputing parties submit their case to a neutral evaluator through a confidential "evaluation session." The neutral evaluator considers each side's position and renders an evaluation of the case.  Parties can include an ENE clause in a contract, which represents their agreement to submit to ENE in good faith.

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE): General Research

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE): HOLLIS Searches

Government ADR

Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group website at ADR.govUnder the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996, federal agencies are authorized to use ADR for resolving disputes.

The Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group facilitates the use of ADR by government agencies. Its website, adr.gov, provides information about how this works in practice, including guidance on how to set up and maintain successful ADR processes, and links to related statutory and executive documents.

Mediation

In the mediation process, the disputing parties meet with a neutral person who facilitates the discussion of their disagreement and the helps them negotiate a compromise.

The goal of the mediator is not to judge which party is "right" or "wrong," or to "solve" the conflict for the parties.  Instead, the mediator encourages the parties to communicate about their differences so they can reach a mutually-agreeable solution.

Mediation is not an ideal solution in all conflict situations, especially when there is an imbalance of power between the parties, or when the relationship has a history of being manipulative, abusive, or violent.

Mediation: General Research

Mediation: HOLLIS Searches

Med-Arb / Arb-Med

Med-arb has features of both mediation and arbitration. The parties first try to resolve their disputes through mediation. If that does not resolve it, then the process switches to a binding arbitration.  

Arb-med starts with an arbitration proceeding, after which a non-binding arbitration award is issued. Then, the parties work with a mediator to attempt to resolve their conflict.

Med-Arb / Arb-Med: General Research

Med-Arb / Arb-Med: HOLLIS Searches

Negotiation

Parties who engage in negotiation meet in good faith to discuss their dispute with the goal of coming to a mutually agreeable resolution. Negotiation can take place with or without a lawyer.

Negotiation: General Research

Negotiation: HOLLIS Searches

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

Online dispute resolution (ODR) gives parties the opportunity to resolve disputes when distance or other circumstances (such as global health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic) make it difficult or impossible for them to meet face-to-face.  

In 2019, the American Bar Association's Center for Innovation published a report on the use of ODR in the United States. It includes data about who is using ODR and their reasons for doing so.

Online Dispute Resolution: General Research

Online Dispute Resolution: HOLLIS Searches

Peace Negotiations and Transitional Justice

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice involves creating a criminal restitution process focusing on the needs of all stakeholders, including the victim, the offender, and the community. It can include mediated dialogues between criminal offenders and their victims, which are used to foster offender accountability, victim forgiveness, and social reintegration for both parties.

Restorative Justice: General Research

Restorative Justice: HOLLIS Searches

ADR Dispute Types

Areas of Law That Employ ADR Methods

This section provides pre-populated HOLLIS searches and tips for ADR research involving specific types of disputes.

Antitrust Disputes

RESEARCH TIP:
The Justice Department's Updated Guidance Regarding the Use of Arbitration and Case Selection Criteria (Nov. 2020) describes how ADR methods can be used in antitrust cases.  Additionally, the Lexis+ Practical Guidance library (subscription database credentials required) has an Arbitration in Antitrust Cases Practice Note.

Commercial / Consumer / Sales Law Disputes

RESEARCH TIP:
For examples of ADR and arbitration clauses that can be added to commercial contracts, go to Westlaw's Practical Law database and click Commercial Transactions > General Contract & Boilerplate.  Then run this search: "arbitration" or "dispute resolution."

Construction Disputes

RESEARCH TIP:
Westlaw's Practical Law database includes many practice-oriented materials for ADR in construction law cases.  From the Practical Law home screen, click Sectors > Construction > Claims & Dispute Resolution.

Education Disputes

RESEARCH TIP:
Managing Conflict in Higher Education, available through the website of the Provost's Office of the University of Miami, offers a brief, keyword-rich explanation of the various uses of ADR for conflict management in university settings.

Housing Disputes

RESEARCH TIP:
In 2021, the Harvard Negotiation Mediation and Clinical Program and the American Bar Association jointly published a report on how ADR can be used to resolve landlord/tenant disputes: Designing for Housing Stability: Best Practices for Court-Based and Court-Adjacent Eviction Prevention and/or Diversion Programs.

Labor and Employment Disputes

Dispute System Design

About Dispute System Design

Dispute system design involves "the design of processes and of systems for preventing and managing disputes."  It is not merely making a decision about using a particular ADR method to resolve a dispute. Instead, it means creatively crafting ways to resolve novel, complicated disputes that feature diverse and competing variables and interests.

(Source: Rogers et al., Designing Systems and Processes for Managing Disputes (2013)).

 

Dispute System Design: Selected Articles and Book Chapters

Ethics in ADR

Ethics in ADR

According to the American Bar Association, "Dispute Resolution professionals must be award of the ethical standards that apply to their jurisdiction and area of practice." Visit the ABA's ADR Resources page to learn more about the work of ABA committees in this area, and to review standards, rules, and policies related to ethics in ADR. 

Ethics in ADR: General Research

Ethics in ADR: HOLLIS Searches

Additional Resources

ADR at Harvard Law School

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