Types of court-connected dispute resolution services

There are 7 dispute resolution processes mentioned in the Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution and offered throughout the courts. Not all processes are available in all courts, and at times, more than one process may be appropriate for a dispute.

Table of Contents


Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process where a neutral person (a mediator) helps disputing parties identify and talk about issues they’re concerned about, exploring various solutions and developing a settlement that's acceptable to both of them.


Conciliation is a process where a neutral party (a conciliator) helps the lawyers for the disputing parties make the issues in conflict clear, determine the strengths and weaknesses of both parties’ claims, and explore the remaining steps to prepare the case for trial.

Case evaluation

Case evaluation is a process where the parties or their lawyers summarize the conflict for a neutral third party (a case evaluator), who gives a nonbinding opinion of the settlement value of the case and/or a nonbinding prediction what the outcome of the case will be if it’s adjudicated.


Mini-trial is a 2-step process to facilitate a settlement. In the first step, the lawyers for each party present to a neutral, in the presence of people who can make decisions for each party, a summary of the evidence and arguments they expect to give at trial. Then, the people who can make decisions meet with or without the neutral to discuss settling the case. If a settlement isn’t reached, the neutral may offer, to help the parties reach a settlement, a prediction of what the outcome of the case will be if it goes to trial.

Summary jury trial

Summary jury trial is a non-binding settlement process where the parties’ lawyers present a summary of the evidence and arguments they expect to give at trial to a 6-person jury chosen from the court’s jury pool. The jury deliberates and returns a non-binding decision. The lawyers can talk to the jurors about their reaction to the evidence and reasons for the verdict. Also, the neutral party may be available to conduct a mediation with the parties.


Arbitration is a process where the parties choose a neutral person (an arbitrator) or a panel of 3 arbitrators. The arbitrator makes a binding or nonbinding decision at the parties’ request after hearing arguments and reviewing the evidence.

Dispute intervention

Dispute intervention is a process where court employees meet with litigants and their lawyers, as appropriate, to identify the issues and areas where the parties disagree, explore solutions, and provide accurate, relevant information and recommendations as requested or ordered by the court. Information discussed during dispute intervention may be reported to the court. Participating in dispute intervention may be either voluntary (Housing Court) or mandatory (Probate and Family Court).

Contact   for Types of court-connected dispute resolution services

Help Us Improve Mass.gov  with your feedback

Please do not include personal or contact information.