Solicitors may need to alter their approach to litigation, experts have suggested, following a commitment to alternative dispute resolution by a number of the UK’s biggest companies.

Tesco, Marks & Spencer, TNT: Post and Virgin Media last week signed up to the 21st Century Corporate ADR Pledge, drawn up by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) and the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR).

Pledge signatories agree to commit their resources to managing and resolving disputes through negotiation, mediation and other ADR processes, with a view to establishing and practising ‘global, sustainable dispute management and resolution processes’.

Other companies that have already signed include BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Microsoft, Pfizer, IBM and Shell.

CEDR chief executive Karl Mackie (pictured) said the fact that so many household names have signed up means that many lawyers will be affected.

‘The solicitors on the panels of these organisations will need to ensure they are up to speed with ADR services,’ he said. ‘Furthermore, many lawyers will be likely to encounter ADR if they represent clients that end up in a dispute with a pledge signatory and will therefore need to adapt their approach.’

Under the scheme, CEDR and CPR will collaborate to help signatories share knowledge and best practice. Mackie told the Gazette: ‘Conflict is a reality of business and should be managed well rather than hiding it under the carpet.’

CPR president Kathy Bryan predicted that the pledge could ‘change the way people view conflict’.

She suggested conflict should not be viewed as a ‘dirty word’ but as a business reality. The work companies will do under the pledge, she suggested, will give them the tools to manage conflict effectively.