The Australian Disputes Centre is exposed to a wide range of conflicts. Although largely associated with the legal process, Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) deals closely with the commercial sphere both as an external avenue for conflict resolution, and as an internal approach to negotiations. As a third year commerce student, I seek to approach ADR from a commercial perspective/background and can thus apply my learning here to my university work. Through my internship at the Centre I have gained valuable insight and a wholesome understanding of the wide reaching applications of ADR, which although very common, are often overlooked in university studies.
When comparing ADR to the legal process, we see a more solution-based approach to conflict resolution. It is unfortunate, yet inevitable that legal disputes are so prevalent within the modern business landscape as such dealings often cost firms significantly in both time and physical expense. Thus, the most obvious application of ADR in business is as an alternative to legal proceedings within corporate disputes. Mediation and Arbitration are particularly prevalent within industries that regularly come across significant, yet small- scale disputes. The construction industry is a great example of this, where injuries, environmental concerns and development objections raise frequent conflicts that can be resolved externally to traditional legal avenues. It has been fascinating to observe the influence of mediation and arbitration through the commercial lens.
While not applicable to all cases, ADR offers a positive approach, where the ultimate goal is to identify a solution in which all parties are satisfied and able to effectively pursue business. In my opinion, an understanding of Dispute Resolution is a highly valuable skill in a business and allows parties to circumvent unnecessary proceedings both internally and externally. Naturally, the faster and more positively that disputes are resolved, typically correlates better return to business for the involved parties.
Personally, I find the concept of discussion in dispute applicable to many business interactions. There is particular demand for such skill in contractual negotiations, human resource management and general commercial navigation. Interestingly, I have found that many employment (or other) contracts now involve mediation clauses in order to avoid the escalation of potential disputes. Businesses are more frequently acknowledging and turning to ADR as not only a legitimate, but the primary avenue towards resolving disputes. Even beyond official mediation or arbitration, the skills and approaches advocated in Alternative Dispute Resolution are applicable to facilitating an open platform for discussion between employees, management and external parties.
Finally, the ideals and approaches of solution based negotiation, understanding and openness practiced in ADR area all universal skills which are incredibly relevant to the business landscape. Personally, I believe these skills are central to good management and present a great advantage in my further study, and my eventual career.
Matthew Kofey – Law Student – University of Sydney