Parties should think about what they need from a neutral to resolve the dispute. Once the parties determine what they want out of ADR , they can look for those qualities in a neutral. For example, how important it is to have a neutral with substantive knowledge about the field. Subject matter expertise may be more important in arbitration or in mediation cases involving issues such as trade secrets or constructions. However, in many mediation cases, communication skills may be more important than subject matter expertise.
Parties should also consider what dispute resolution style will help resolve their dispute. In arbitration, parties may want a flexible arbitrator or they may need a strong case manager who keeps the parties on a tight reign. In mediation, parties should consider whether they want a mediator whose approach is more "evaluative" or more "facilitative". A facilitative mediator may tend not to make substantive suggestions and try to promote active problem-solving from the parties whereas an evaluative mediator might suggest resolution options and try to convince the parties to adopt their proposed solutions. Most mediators use a style that is somewhere between a pure facilitative and a pure evaluative style. Parties may also want to know if a mediator prefers to meet with the disputants together or separately.