United States District Court - Northern District Court of California

Claudia Wilken, Chief Judge

Richard W. Wieking, Clerk of Court

How To Choose an ADR Process

The chart on the bottom of this page may be useful in selecting an ADR process.  A printable version of the chart (.pdf) is also available.

The chart summarizes the court's general observations about the major benefits of ADR and the extent to which the court's four major ADR processes are likely to accomplish them. These are generalizations that the court believes are accurate in many, but not all, cases. 

The court cannot guarantee that an ADR process will provide a listed benefit. The likelihood that a particular ADR process will deliver a benefit depends not only on the type of process, but on numerous other factors including: the style of the neutral; the type and procedural posture of the case; and the parties' and counsel's attitudes and personalities, level of preparation, and experience with the particular ADR process.

The court's ADR staff is available to help you select or customize an ADR process to meet your needs.

Comparing the Benefits of ADR Processes

  • Very Likely indicates the program is Very Likely to provide the benefit,
  • Somewhat Likely indicates the programs is Somewhat Likely to provide the benefit, and
  • Less Likely indicates the program as being Less Likely to provide the benefit.
  • Asterisks (*) indicate additional information in the supplementary notes below.
Enhance Party Satisfaction Arbitration ENE Mediation Settlemt. Conf.
Help settle all or part of dispute Less Likely* Somewhat Likely* Very Likely Very Likely*
Permit creative/business-driven solution that court could not order Less Likely* Somewhat Likely* Very Likely Somewhat Likely*
Preserve personal or business relationships Less Likely* Somewhat Likely* Very Likely Somewhat Likely*
Increase satisfaction and thus improve chance of lasting solution Less Likely* Somewhat Likely* Very Likely Somewhat Likely*
Allow Flexibility, Control and Participation Arbitration ENE Mediation Settlemt. Conf.
Broaden the interests taken into consideration N/A Somewhat Likely* Very Likely Somewhat Likely*
Protect confidentiality Somewhat Likely* Very Likely Very Likely Very Likely
Provide trial-like hearing Very Likely N/A N/A N/A
Provide opportunity to appear before judicial officer N/A N/A N/A Very Likely
Improve Case Management Arbitration ENE Mediation Settlemt. Conf.
Help parties agree on further conduct of the case N/A Very Likely Somewhat Likely* Somewhat Likely*
Streamline discovery and motions N/A Very Likely Somewhat Likely* Somewhat Likely*
Narrow issues and identify areas of agreement N/A Very Likely Very Likely Very Likely
Reach stipulations N/A Very Likely Somewhat Likely* Very Likely
Improve Understaning of Case Arbitration ENE Mediation Settlemt. Conf.
Help get to core of case and sort out issues in dispute Somewhat Likely Very Likely Very Likely Very Likely
Provide neutral evaluation of the case Very Likely Very Likely Less Likely Somewhat Likely*
Provide expert in subject matter Somewhat Likely* Very Likely Somewhat Likely* Somewhat Likely*
Help parties see strengths and weaknesses of positions Very Likely Very Likely Very Likely Very Likely
Permit direct and informal communication of clients' views Less Likely Somewhat Likely Very Likely Less Likely*
Provide opportunity to assess witness credibility and performance Very Likely Somewhat Likely* Somewhat Likely* Less Likely
Help parties agree to an informal exchange of key information Less Likely Very Likely Somewhat Likely* Somewhat Likely*
Reduce Hostility Arbitration ENE Mediation Settlemt. Conf.
Improve communications between parties/attorneys Less Likely* Very Likely Very Likely Somewhat Likely*
Decrease hostility Less Likely Very Likely Very Likely Somewhat Likely*

Additional factors to note:

  1. Arbitration:
    • May provide the benefits listed under Party Satisfaction, and improve communication between parties/attorneys, when the award triggers or contributes to settlement discussions.
    • Confidentiality — The arbitration award may not be disclosed to the assigned trial judge until the action is terminated. Although the award is not admissible at a trial de novo, recorded communications made during the arbitration may be admissible for limited purposes.
  2. Mediation:
    • May provide the benefits listed under “Improving Case Management” but focuses primarily on settlement.
    • Opportunity to assess witness credibility and performance may accrue if the parties participate actively in joint session.
  3. ENE:
    • May provide the benefits listed under “Enhance Party satisfaction” when the parties use it for settlement discussions.
    • Some of the court's ENE evaluators also have been trained as mediators.
    • Opportunity to assess witness credibility and performance may accrue if the parties participate actively in joint session.
  4. Settlement Conferences:
    • For the benefits marked with a 5 or a 3, the settlement conference may or may not deliver the benefit depending on the settlement judges' particular styles.
  5. Neutral expertise:
    • Depending on the subject matter of the dispute, the Neutral may have expertise.