UCL Faculty of Laws


Alternative Dispute Resolution (LAWS0261)

This module introduces students to the principles and practice of alternative dispute resolution.

It examines the various processes that collectively constitute ADR, for instance, negotiation; mediation; arbitration; collaborative lawyering; early neutral evaluation; summary jury trial and mini-trials. It explores the role played by Ombudsman and recent developments in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). It does so by examining the nature of disputes, the history and theory of dispute resolution and the development of ADR since the 1970s. The module includes practical exercises in mediation to illustrate the nature and limitations of ADR and the skills of the mediator.

It provides experience in the value and limitations of adopting a ‘problem-solving’ approach to disputes. Students will gain an understanding of the dynamics of mediation and negotiation and the necessary skill of the mediator. Theoretical and skills-development is provided through seminars, practical exercises, the application of dispute systems design, and the writing of a substantial final assessment.


The module is divided into four main parts. It first explores the nature of disputes and dispute resolution and examining issue of formal and injustice justice. It then explores the various different methods that can be used to resolve disputes and the growth of ADR from the 1970s, primarily in the United States of America and other common law jurisdictions. ADR’s relationship with access to justice is then examined as is the role lawyers have played and do play in the development of particular forms of ADR and its relationship with formal adjudication.

Having explored the nature and development of ADR, the course then focuses on an in-depth examination of its principal forms: negotiation; mediation; arbitration; and, the increasing roles of ombudsman and ODR. As the primary form of ADR, mediation is a particular focus. Theoretical study is complemented in this part of the course with practical mediation exercises, and through collaborative work to design modern dispute resolution systems.

In the final section of the module, the future of ADR is considered. Novel ADR methods are explored. The future relationship between ADR and the courts is examined, both in terms of the possible introduction in the 21st Century online version of Sander’s multi-door courthouse and the role ADR and ODRs’ promotion is playing, and may continue to play, in the downgrading and possible privatisation of the civil justice system.

Module syllabus

1) ADR and its Development

  • Week 1: Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Week 2: Conflicts, Disputes and Dispute Resolution
  • Week 3: ADR - Development of and Responses to Disputes
  • Week 4: ADR - Development and Critique

2) Negotiation and Meditation

  • Week 5: Negotiation - I
  • Week 6: Negotiation - II
  • Week 7: Mediation - I
  • Week 8: Mediation - II
  • Week 9: Mediation - III

3) Umpiring and Ombudsman

  • Week 10: Arbitration
  • Week 11: Ombudsman

4) The Future Development of ADR

  • Week 12: Processual Innovation - I - Collaborative Law
  • Week 13: Processual Innovation - II - Private Judging/Summary Jury Trial
  • Weel 14: Processual Innovation - III - ENE/Arb-Med/Med-Arb
  • Week 15: Online Dispute Resolution - I
  • Week 16: Online Dispute Resolution - II

5) Dispute Systems Design

  • Week 17: Design Systems Design - I
  • Week 18: Design Systems Design - II
  • Week 19: Design Systems Design - III
  • Week 20: Student Presentations

Recommended Materials

There is a wealth of material available concerning ADR, its principles, forms and practice. The following provide a good basis for understanding the issues

  • Roberts & Palmer, Dispute Processes: ADR and the Primary Forms of Decision Making, (CUP, 2020)
  • S Auerbach, Justice Without Law? Resolving Disputes without Lawyers, (OUP, 1984)
  • Brown & Marriott, ADR: Principles and Practice, (Sweet & Maxwell, 2019)
  • C Menkel-Meadow, Dispute Resolution: Beyond the Adversarial Model, (Aspen 2011)
  • Sander, Varieties of Dispute Processing, Address Before the National Conference on the Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice 70 F.R.D. 79 (1976)

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, available at the beginning of term once students have enrolled.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:45 credits (450 learning hours)
Convenor:John Sorabji
Other Teachers:Tony Allen, Heather Allen
Teaching Delivery:Face to Face Seminar
Who may enrol:LLM students only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution
Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:6,000 Word Essay (100%)