What is Alternative Dispute Resolution and ADR?
“Alternative dispute resolution” and its acronym “ADR” are terms often used to define alternative ways in which disputing parties can resolve their problems without having to submit them to a court or other arbitral forum in an adversarial proceeding. Although the term is sometimes used in a more expansive sense to include binding arbitration or a trial by a special judge selected by the parties, it is used in the context of the Evans ADR process to mean a voluntary and informal non-binding process unless the parties specifically agree otherwise.
Principal Goal of the Evans ADR Process
As envisioned by Judge Evans, the ultimate goal of the Evans ADR Process is to assure that all people, including those with only limited or moderate means, have an opportunity to obtain prompt, efficient, and affordable dispute resolution services. With that goal in mind, Judge Evans has developed an ADR process that is focused on two-party disputes in which the amount of each party’s claim does not exceed the limits set out in the Texas Supreme Court’s Rule of Civil Procedure 169 governing expedited civil actions.
Separate Meetings with Each Party and Their Counsel
From his years of experience in the ADR field, Judge Evans has found that conventional ADR protocols do not always create cooperative interaction among the disputing parties and their counsel. He believes that it is usually more productive for him to meet separately with each party and his or her attorney, at least in one initial session, rather than try to involve all parties and their counsel in an opening general session. It is also important, he believes, that each party be invited to participate in the development of the ADR protocol agreement and be given the opportunity to discuss with the ADR facilitator the relative benefits and consequences of engaging in the ADR process.
For this reason, Judge Evans proposes to "meet with" each party and their counsel in a one-hour introductory interview with Judge Evans to determine whether the party genuinely wants to participate in the process and to consider the estimated amount of time and costs that likely will be involved in the process.
Preliminary Tasks Assigned to the Parties and Counsel
If the parties and their counsel advise Judge Evans that they sincerely wish to go forward with the process, he will issue a joint letter of instructions in which the parties will confirm their respective commitments and agree to a time schedule for the completion of assigned tasks to prepare for a general session. Among other assigned tasks, the parties will be instructed to exchange relevant documents and information and to complete basic case evaluation exercises that will help determine the parameters of their settlement negotiations.
The General Session
At the general session the parties will be asked to reaffirm their respective commitments to engage in good faith settlement negotiations and will begin opening discussions regarding the issues in dispute and suggest potential solutions to the problem. During and after this opening session, the parties will be encouraged to continue their dialogue with one another in a good faith effort to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution. If the parties are able to reach an acceptable compromise, Judge Evans will help them reduce their settlement agreement to writing; otherwise the parties and their counsel will continue to meet periodically, either in person or online, in an effort to bring the matter to an acceptable conclusion.
If both parties and their counsel sincerely wish to resolve their dispute promptly and with a minimum investment of time and costs, the Evans ADR process offers a reasonably safe and convenient forum in which they can achieve that goal.
Even if the parties are unable to achieve a final settlement during their initial meetings, the Evans ADR process provides a private and confidential means for each party to secure a fair and impartial evaluation of their respective positions and thus gain a better understanding of the probable outcome of the dispute if it is not settled through their own negotiations.
In sum, the Evans ADR Process gives each party and their attorney the opportunity to participate actively in designing the ADR protocol and the assurance that they will be able to maintain final control over the course of their negotiations.