ADR Terms & Definitions*

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Any procedure, agreed to by the parties of a dispute, in which they use the services of a neutral party to assist them in reaching agreement and avoiding litigation. (See Alternative Dispute Resolution | U.S. Department of Labor › Labor Relations.)  ADR encompasses mediation, arbitration, negotiation, facilitation, collaborative law, conciliation, arbitration, and ombuds. There are hybrids such as “mediation-arbitration.”

Negotiation The process of communication and bargaining between parties seeking to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome on issues of shared concern. The process typically involves compromise and concessions and is designed to result in agreement. (See Snodderly, Dan. 2011. Peace Terms. Washington, DC, USIP, p. 60.)

Conflict Coaching The process in which a coach and client communicate one-on-one for the purpose of developing the client's conflict-related understanding, interaction strategies, and interaction skills.  (See Jones, T.S., Brinkert, R. 2008. Conflict Coaching: Conflict Management Strategies and Skills for the Individual. Los Angeles, Sage. p. 459.)


One who is affiliated with an organization or business who assists individuals and groups in the resolution of conflicts or concerns through gathering information, research, and investigation. There are different types of ombuds with different roles, functional responsibilities, and standards of practice including organizational ombuds, classical ombuds, and advocate ombuds. 


A process in which a neutral facilitates settlement by clarifying issues and serving as an intermediary for negotiations in a manner which is generally more informal and less structured than mediation. (See VA Code § 8.01 576.4.)

Early Neutral Evaluation

A process in which a neutral is presented with a summary of facts and law by all parties to the conflict and is asked to give an evaluation of their positions, along with an assessment of the likely outcome if the case were to go to trial. 

Mediation A process in which a neutral facilitates communication between the parties and, without deciding the issues or imposing a solution on the parties, enables them to understand and to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to their dispute.  (See VA Code § 8.01 576.4.) Different types of mediation are practiced with different goals, procedures, and levels of mediator, attorney and disputant participation. (See for a description of the different types of mediation.)

Facilitation The process or set of skills by which a third party attempts to help disputants move toward the resolution of a dispute.  It may mean helping the parties set ground rules, goals and agendas for meetings, conducting meetings, helping with communication between the parties, analyzing the situation and possible outcomes, and helping the participants keep on track and working toward mutual goals. (See Snodderly, Dan. 2011 Peace Terms. Washington, DC USIP, p. 37.)

Arbitration The process of using an impartial third party, called an arbitrator, to settle a dispute between the parties. 

Judicial Settlement Conference

An informal process in which a person affiliated with the court, trained in mediation and settlement conference skills, actively facilitates a process whereby parties in conflict may reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.  (See


The process of resolving disputes by filing or answering a complaint through the public court system. (See Legal Information Institute.)

*As created and compiled by the Virginia ADR Coalition on Feb. 16, 2022

ADR Continuum:

Negotiation --> Conciliation --> Early Neutral Evaluation--> Mediation or Facilitation --> Arbitration --> Litigation

Standards of Conduct for Mediators:

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