The state of Maryland commissioned a cutting edge research project that has succeeded in measuring the effectiveness of the state’s court-connected ADR program in limited jurisdiction courts. This study attempted to do much more than track settlement rates achieved through the program; the researchers also assessed the satisfaction of participants with the system, comparing the results with control groups of litigants who did not utilize the program. They found that participants who achieved settlement through ADR processes were most satisfied with court than those whose cases were adjudicated by the court. Even more tangibly, those cases were more than 20% less likely to return to court for enforcement or other follow-up action, a finding of considerable cheer to court administrators attempting to secure ADR funding from the legislature.
The study also attempted to measure more precisely what features of the ADR process participants found most beneficial, such as whether issues were addressed by the court, or whether participants took responsibility for their actions. These questions found significant gains through the use of ADR.
Drilling down even more deeply, this study even attempted to measure what techniques used by court mediators were most effective. This effort required the researchers to monitor mediations, code various types of mediator interventions, and correlate those with participant responses. They could thereby determine whether techniques such as eliciting information from participants, or reflecting what participants told the mediators, or making suggestions to the parties, were more successful in achieving agreements as well as satisfaction by the participants.
This research found, for example, that eliciting solutions from the parties had a positive impact on reaching agreement in mediation. On the other hand, using more evaluative or directive techniques had some negative long-term impacts. And participants reported feeling less satisfied with caucus-style mediation than those who relied more on joint sessions.