Alternative Dispute Resolution is not new. What is new is the rapid shift to private mediation and arbitration of cases that traditionally went to trial. If you have an employment or commercial dispute, the odds are increasing daily that you'll find the courtroom doors closed to your case. If you are looking for ADR services, you can visit this site.
First, some clarifying descriptions: mediation is a voluntary submission of a case to a neutral, paid "deal broker" whose goal is not justice but closure. The parties to the mediation are not bound by the result and agree that the discussions in the mediation will be kept confidential. There is no evidence taken in the mediation.
The second major "Alternative Dispute Resolution" tool is arbitration. Arbitration is the private resolution of a dispute compelled by a contract between the parties and requires the submission of evidence.
"Alternative Dispute Resolution" can be expensive. Successful, entrepreneurial mediators in Southern California in employment disputes, for example, command fees between $4,000 to $10,000 per day of service, the parties often splitting the cost of the mediation. Most employment law mediations require one full day.
The general rule is that the winner recovers the "costs" of arbitration, which would include the cost of the arbitrator. However, unless there is a statute or written agreement between the parties for recovery of attorney's fees, each side must pay his own attorney. In employment discrimination cases, there are just such "fee-shifting" statutes favoring the employee.
In conclusion, "Alternative Dispute Resolution" is the trend of the 21st century unless the State and Federal Judiciaries take measures to make the courts more accessible through the use of internet filing and service of process, video conferencing, and expedited jury trials.