Other Alternative Dispute Resolution services

Learn about other options outside of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Table of Contents

Conciliation services

Conciliation is a court-connected dispute resolution process lawyers perform, generally with a local bar association. Conciliation is defined under the Uniform Rules of Dispute Resolution (Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18) as a process in which a neutral assists parties in settling a case by clarifying the issues and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the case. If the case is not settled, a conciliator explores the steps which remain to prepare the case for trial.   

A conciliator may take on a variety of roles in the conciliation process depending on the case. For example, a conciliator may:

  • Help the parties clarify issues in a dispute 
  • Determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ case 
  • Give opinions about the advantages and potential outcome of the case
  • Explore settlement
  • If no settlement is reached, speed up trial preparation and move the case toward disposition

The Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution explain qualification standards for all neutrals. To be qualified, a conciliator must:

  • Be a lawyer licensed to practice law in Massachusetts 
  • Be in good standing with the Board of Bar Overseers
  • Have been practicing law in Massachusetts for at least 3 years  

Currently, conciliation programs are approved to offer dispute resolution services in the Probate and Family Court, the Superior Court, and the District Court departments.

Housing specialists (Housing Court)

Housing specialists provide free mediation and dispute intervention services to Housing Court litigants. Housing specialists are trained to help litigants identify dispute issues and resolve differences. Housing specialists resolve hundreds of summary process and other landlord-tenant disputes each week.

Superior Court mediation and discovery master services

The Superior Court offers limited free mediation and discovery master services in civil cases, usually involving unrepresented litigants and parties who can’t afford a private mediator or master. Superior Court ADR Officer James McCormack is available to mediate cases and to explain ADR services to lawyers and parties. Retired Superior Court judges Paul Chernoff and John Cratsley provide a range of ADR services in Middlesex and Suffolk Counties where at least one party certifies that they can’t afford private ADR. The Superior Court also works with the Essex Bar Association and with Greater Lowell ADR, Inc. to offer free conciliation services to civil litigants in Essex County and Northern Middlesex County. With those programs, trained members of the bar act as conciliators. Please email James McCormack at james.mccormack@jud.state.ma.us for more information or to request a referral to court-connected ADR.

Mediation services of the Boston Municipal Court

Mediation is when all parties in a lawsuit sit down with a neutral person who helps them talk about the dispute and try to negotiate a settlement or resolution. The Boston Municipal Court (BMC) Department’s mediation services are available to parties in civil cases in all 8 BMC court locations. Approved programs offer free mediation services. To ask for mediation services, please contact the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office in the court where your case is filed.