The Dispute Resolution Continuum



We are all involved in conflicts every day, ranging from when our kids are going to bed or what movie to see. Our conflicts highlight our needs and desires, and reflect those of others. To be conflict free is to be isolated.

Of course conflict outcomes matter, but our methods of resolution do too. What method we use is an important choice that should be thoughtfully made.  While some methods are usually right and others often wrong. It isn’t hard to think of a situation in which some other choice is better, no matter which method one chooses.  Context is king.  This is behind Sander and Goldberg’s advice to “fit the forum to the fuss” when choosing a resolution method.

The relevant variables in choosing a process are numerous: personal involvement, control, involvement of others, formality, complexity, average duration, cost, and confidentiality. A process place along the line will change slightly depending on which of these is one’s focus.  But  in general,  as party control drops, the other variables rise.

The list in this continuum is not exhaustive. Alternative dispute resolution evolves daily, and the parties are largely free to craft their own processes.  What this means for you as a disputant is that you are free to choose the place along the line that fits you best, provided you can get your co-disputant to agree.


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Scott Van Soye
Managing Editor - Scott Van Soye is the managing editor of ADR Times. He is also a full-time mediator and arbitrator working with the Agency for Dispute Resolution with offices in Irvine, Beverly Hills and nationwide. He is a member of the California Bar, and practiced real estate, civil rights, and employment law for over twenty years. He holds an LL.M. in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University, where he is an adjunct professor of law. He welcomes your inquiries, and can be reached at [email protected] or (800) 616-1202, Ext. 721

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