October is Conflict Resolution Month in Colorado. In honor of the month and in order to celebrate the many ways that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can aid in conflict resolution, here are 5 benefits of engaging in ADR:
1. Opportunity for Creative Solutions
As we all know, our courts are set-up to resolve issues pursuant to the law. There are times when taking a case to court is necessary, and there are times that going to court is the only way to resolve issues between parties. However, there are real limits to what a court can order and how creative a court can get in reaching a result that will end up benefitting all of the parties. In different types of ADR, including in mediation, parties and their attorneys have the opportunity to think through potential creative solutions that a court may not be able to consider. This is one of the biggest benefits of engaging in ADR. The well-known story of the two sisters fighting over two oranges illustrates this concept well. If the sisters went to court to determine who got the oranges, a court might choose which sister should receive the oranges. However, in mediation, because there is a broader opportunity for story-telling and open dialogue, the sisters might find that one of them wanted the peel of the orange for its zest, while the other simply needed the actual fruit to make juice. Having this information, the sisters could divide the fruit accordingly and both get what they needed.
2. Client-Focused Results
In the same vein, allowing for creative solutions in ADR can also help us as attorneys get client-focused results. A process such as mediation allows us to explore ways that each party might be willing to assist each other in order to get a result that each can live with. For example, consider a family law case where one parent is a teacher and the other parent works until 6pm each night. Both parents want a 50/50 parenting time schedule. A court would rarely order one parent to pick-up minor children from school on a day that they didn’t have parenting time, so the parent working long hours may have to incur additional costs by sending the children to daycare on their parenting time days, which would financially impact both parents. On the other hand, the teacher parent might be willing and able, and potentially even eager, to have the children stay with them after school lets out for the day, until the other parent was off of work. This allows both parents to have 50/50 parenting time and avoid unwanted/unneeded daycare costs. These types of client-focused results can occur in mediation.
3. Monetary and Emotional Cost Savings
We all know how expensive going to court can be. There is typically a huge monetary cost-savings to a fair settlement. However, we often overlook the emotional cost to our clients of going to court. For most of our clients, worrying about outcomes, being entrenched in conflict, having to testify, and having someone else make a determination for them is incredibly stressful. ADR, if successful, often allows clients to escape some of this stress, lets them maintain control of their outcomes, and lessens the length of the dispute.
4. Potential for Healing
It’s easy to forget that people involved in disputes are, more often than not, emotionally entangled in their case. A typical case in court does not necessarily allow for individuals to express their emotions and a lot of the time, the emotions are considered to be irrelevant and can’t be heard by the court. Most forms of ADR will allow parties to tell their full stories and this has the great potential for healing. One of the most powerful forms of ADR for encouraging healing is restorative justice. This is a process that has at times been implemented in certain criminal matters, where victims, offenders, and other community members are focused on collaboratively repairing harm to the victims, and allowing for rehabilitation of the offender by taking responsibility for the harm they caused. What a transformational and powerful process this can be.
5. Everyone Can Win
After prolonged litigation ending with a hearing, most of the time there is either a winner or a looser, or sometimes, both parties end up feeling like they lost. Very rarely do both parties exit a courtroom thinking they both won. Circling back to the example of the two sisters and their oranges, that type of outcome is possible using ADR. The opportunity to think through creative solutions, ability to gain client-focused results, the monetary and emotional cost savings, and the potential for healing, all make ADR a great option for many of our cases.
If you’re interested in learning more about ADR and earning CLE credits, the Alternative Dispute Resolutions Section of the CBA is offering the Alternative Dispute Resolution Conference in-person and virtually on October 15, 2021.
Julia Kneeland Lazure is a partner at Kneeland & Lazure Law, LLC, where she works with individuals and families to navigate major changes in their lives, so they can have peace of mind and plan for their futures in the areas of estate planning, business law, and family law. She graduated from the University of Colorado School of Law, and prior to joining Kneeland & Lazure Law, LLC, Julia worked at Denver District Court as the Family Court Facilitator and served as a judicial law clerk. In addition to volunteering with the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, Julia serves on the planning committee for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Annual Continuing Legal Education Conference; volunteer guest lectures and provides trainings at Denver District Court; and is the Immediate Past President of the Junior League of Denver, a women’s training and civic leadership organization.