North America is well served by a significant number of organizations supporting alternative dispute resolution. This is not surprising since, in many ways, much of the impetus behind the recent development of ADR can be said to have originated in North America. While it would be tempting to think that this is because of the practicality and insight of the residents of this part of the world, the development of ADR in our region is in no small part due to difficulties we have created for ourselves. What started as a demand from private business to find more efficient and effective methods of dispute resolution, has now been adopted by governments seeking to support their judicial systems and reduce costs, universities and training institutions have recognized the interest in ADR and professional bodies have felt the need to promote and regulate its use. The result has been the tremendous development of alternative dispute resolution which we have witnessed in the past few years. There is today a wealth of ADR resources available in North America, including a developed international framework and national legislation, dispute resolution institutions and organizations, educational and training institutions, and a wide variety of sources of information.
This wealth of resources and choices can sometimes be bewildering when one is faced with a dispute and how to resolve it. One may very well then ask, where do I start? In my view the key to answering this question is understanding the nature of the dispute and how it relates to one's business. From this point of departure, a dispute can be analyzed and managed much as other aspects of doing business. This approach offers a practical way to select one or more methods of dispute resolution from a broad spectrum of choices and to develop a strategy to implement them.