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Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is the study of alternatives to the adjudication of disputes in court. These alternatives include negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, as well as a number of hybrid processes.

In recent decades, there has been an exponential growth of interest in ADR in both the private and public sectors. Federal and state court systems have adopted a wide variety of ADR programs, creating new challenges for lawyers in client counseling, party representation, and in acting as third-party neutrals. These developments require careful examination of the legal, policy, ethical, and jurisprudential issues associated with ADR.

ADR courses should be of interest to anyone who expects to practice in litigation or transactional settings. Courses in dispute resolution will be especially helpful for those who plan to specialize in family or labor law, or who are interested in pursuing legal careers as arbitrators or mediators. The study of ADR should be grounded in an understanding of formal dispute resolution mechanisms studied in courses such as Civil Procedure and Remedies. As students learn to evaluate the benefits and limitations of less formal dispute resolution processes, they can both responsibly counsel clients about their choices and, as policymakers, make informed choices about dispute resolution systems.

A useful sequence begins with the basic ADR course. This course introduces students to basic negotiation theory, which forms the underpinnings for many informal ADR processes. Depending upon individual interests, students may then decide to focus specifically in particular practice areas, such as arbitration, mediation, or negotiation. Students who have a particular interest in mediation or arbitration practice should consider a live clinical offering, which enables them to develop non-adversarial lawyering skills such as problem-solving, facilitation, and consensus-building in the Mediation Clinic; or arbitration advocacy and client representation in the Securities Arbitration Clinic; or collaborative, interdisciplinary practice as a framework for problem-solving and conflict resolution in the Family Advocacy Clinic. The related course, Fundamental Lawyering Skills, is a prerequisite to many of the Law School’s clinical offerings and also addresses negotiation and case management topics.