Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My Second Academic Year In Qatar Starts on Sunday!

My Facebook feed keeps showing me photos from a year ago:

My first day in Qatar on August 15, 2015, jet lag clearly present.

My shopping trips with friends as I began housekeeping in my Porto Arabia Tower apartment.

Delicious meals at the restaurants featuring a wide variety of international foods.

The onboarding process at Qatar University for new faculty.

Steamy nights exploring the souk.

Some sight-seeing trips in the blistering evening heat.

Exploring fancy spas.

Morning walks on the harbor with West Bay skyscrapers visible in the distance.

Dressing up for the law school's reception at the Ritz Carlton.

I am happy and curious in all these photos. 

I look at those photos and feel grateful that I am through that demanding transition process.  Doha is now thoroughly my home. 

I have a new apartment in Qanat Quatier, an apartment complex designed to imitate Venice.  I live in a one bedroom apartment I decorated to look like a Nantucket beach house.  

I am only a block from the beach on the Arabian Gulf. 

These days, I swim there most mornings.  I prefer the pools in the Towers.  Recently, I set some personal bests wearing my version of a birkini.  I can swim 30 lengths in a 16 meter pool in about 25 minutes.  I can also swim 40 lengths without too many breaks.  I ordered a swim watch just so I get a bit more obsessive about it.  

What is absent from these photos that are taking me down memory lane are photos of my early classes and my lovely female students. 

Perhaps I was too overwhelmed to remember to snap any photos.  At the same time, I quickly learned that you do not take photos of women without permission.  If you look carefully, you will notice that any photos I post on Facebook show female students from behind.

I talked about the course I teach and my students in this post.  A year later, I remind myself to stay open-hearted towards my students.  They typically share my sense of overwhelm.  I tell them to "do it scared."  I tell them that growth happens outside their comfort zones. I tell them to just put their heads down and do the work.  I tell them to be brave.  They've got this. 

And, most of them do.

This summer, I ran into several students in local malls or the Ikea store.  They are always with their lovely mothers.  We talk.  They say such nice things about me.  I am proud of them and let their mothers know that.  They blush a little.  These are the moments teachers wait to have.   Quick affirmations that student and teachers work in partnership to create love and success.

I am excited about the new semester.   I can't wait to meet my new students.  I hope one, like last semester, will tell me at the final exam that she is planning to "dazzle me."  Please do.  Shine brightly. 

Peace, Justice, and Fairness in the Muslim Tradition

Peace Be With Us All

This article, Principles and Practices of Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam, provides a very interesting synthesis of the role peace plays in the Muslim community.  It also discusses the role of conflict resolution in Muslim cultures, with a focus on Morocco.

The author, Claudia Maffettone is a conflict resolution practitioner and a certified mediator. She trained the New York Peace Institute, Harvard Law School, the New York City Bar, Soliya and the International Institute for Restorative Practices.

I have suggested that she present this synthesis at the next conference of the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution.  I think my colleagues would find it valuable. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Another New Tribe: Attendees at the Global Legal Skills Conference

Part of my transition as a new resident of the Arabian Gulf region involves finding new tribes to join and help lead.   In March 2016, I talked about the ADR tribes that I’ve found in Dubai and Doha.  I found another tribe that reflects my new place in the world.

At the end of May, I attended the Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona, Italy at the University of Verona's Facolta Giurisprudenza.  Last year, I attended this conference for the first time.  I came back for the reason that the folks organizing and attending this conference are highly dedicated professors of law from all over the world who want to learn how better to teach law across cultures and across languages.

In other words, they are process people – my type of people.  Mediators often say that if the process is good, the outcome will be just fine, too.   So, if we continue to explore skillful ways of teaching students for whom English is not their first language, then those students are likely to respond with higher engagement, greater feelings of success, and a deeper sense of connection. 

Attendees included people running and teaching in U.S.-based LL.M. programs.  Many law schools have started these programs to fill the gap created by declining enrollments of U.S. law students.  I suspect many law schools start these programs without having sufficient support systems in place for students arriving from many parts of the globe. 

Other attendees, like myself, teach courses in law schools located in countries other than the U.S.  Many of us are trying to describe the common law legal system to students embedded in a civil law culture.  We talked about the challenges of teaching the value, weight, and use of case law in a system reliant on precedent.

Still other attendees teach English as a Second Language (ESL).  They are often not lawyers, and they bring a completely different perspective to the conversation.

The conference is designed to give us all exposure to innovative ways to teach these students.  These colleagues have experimented with different teaching approaches and resources in an effort to find the best way to support student learning. Many of these teachers must create the handouts, readings, and other teaching tools they use because so few resources exist for each course topic.

I spoke on a panel about delivering high-quality online legal education.  My co-panelists explained a very sophisticated online program in Canada offered at the Osgoode Hall School of Law and the hybrid legal education (the first one approved by the ABA) at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.  These educational programs are supported by sophisticated (and expensive) technology, video, and teaching platforms.  

I was there to talk about my cheap work-around using a Google application called WebinarJam Studio, a Yeti microphone, a tri-fold screen as a backdrop, Thinkstock licensed images, and a Logitech webcam. 

I have to mention the fabulous location of the conference in Verona, Italy.  This city is designated as a World Heritage Site.  People were friendly and helpful.  

My centrally located hotel gave me easy access to the Roman stadium, Juliet’s balcony, the old city wall and arches, the medieval fort, the Justinian Gardens, Basilica San Zeno, and the medieval bell-tower.  After three days logging over 10,000 steps a day, I finally used the hop-on, hop-off bus tour for a day to cover more territory. 

I also discovered a cocktail that found its way to cafe tables at lunch and sunset -- the Spritz Apperol (or Spritz).

On my last day in Italy, Profs. Mark Wojcik and David Austin, the energy behind the whole event, organized a day-trip to Padua.  In many ways, I enjoyed this little college town more than Verona.  

Located here is the first independent university in Europe, which
offered its scholars and students greater intellectual freedom from the influence of the Vatican and the Italian government.  Founded in 1222, it educated Dante and Copernicus. Among other treasures, we saw the wooden lectern of Galileo, who taught there for many years.  It struck me how one teacher could so vastly influence the world and how we thought about it. Sorry, I could not take any photos once we entered the university buildings.

Our guide also showed us a work of art that commemorates the resistance of many university professors to Nazi politics and repression.  I keep that art in mind during this U.S. presidential election cycle. 

The 1594 Anatomical Theater in the medical school was an extraordinary example of advances in teaching.  During classes, a small chamber -- lit by candlelight -- held the cadaver, the professor, and the person doing the dissection. Above this chamber was a several story room that was shaped like a steeply-sided funnel. In the levels above, students would stand to watch the lesson.  Each level had a carved wooden railing high enough to prevent fainting students from falling over the railing and onto the dissection table several floors below.  Here, in the 17th century, scholars and students first understood blood circulation. 

I wish I had a photo.  In any event, a photo would not have captured this awe-inspiring place.  What a dedication to a whole new way of teaching!  Not quite active learning -- where students would later do their own dissections -- but a step away from pure lecture.

On our way out, we saw a fresco of a student.  As the image climbed the stairs, it showed the young man gaining age and wisdom.  

A sculpture paid tribute to Elena Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman to earn a degree at the university and the first woman in the world to earn a Ph.D.  She did that in 1678. 

This university tour had a profound affect on all of us.  We carry so much responsibility for teaching our students. It was the perfect ending to a conference focused on becoming better teachers. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Back in the Middle with You: 
Re-Joining my U.S. ADR Tribe

In early April 2016, after a gap of several years, I finally joined an old tribe of ADR scholars, trainers, and practitioners at the annual conference, this year in New York, sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution. This ABA tribe claims my heart. These are great folks doing interesting and world-altering work. I love being among them.

In my last post, I talked about several new tribes that reflect my transition to a new life in Doha, Qatar as a law professor. My new Arabian Gulf ADR tribes are important to my desire to scale-up my ADR practice and training.

Yet, the anchor for my work has always been my old ABA tribe. I have tried to serve it in several ways:
  • Member, Standing Committee on Ethical Guidance for Mediators (2006-2011).
  • Co-Chair, Mediator Ethical Opinions Database Sub-Committee of the Standing Committee on Ethical Guidance for Mediators (2006-2008). 
  • Chair of Bar Exam Committee of the Am. Bar Ass’n Taskforce on Legal Education, ADR, and Problem-Solving (2010-2011).
  • National Co-Chair, Am. Bar Ass’n Section of Dispute Resolution Representation in Mediation Competition (2003-2004).
But, when my little law school in Appalachia responded to declining student enrollments by cutting back, and then eliminating, money for conference travel by professors, my ability to play a role at the national ADR level diminished quickly. It made me very sad.

This spring, I was invited to join a conference panel discussing the topic of Teaching Conflict in the Midst of Conflict. Doha remains a very safe place, but countries dealing with civil war, terrorism, and other civil unrest encircle Qatar. 

I provided some information about my experience teaching in Qatar (so far, an excellent experience). I talked about teaching gender-segregated classes and the aspirations of my male and female students. Finally, I shared the information about the state of ADR in the region, which my new Arabian Gulf ADR tribe helped me assemble and understand better. See my last post for more on that topic. 

One question -- from Nancy A. Welsh, a distinguished ADR scholar and law professor at Penn State Dickenson Law School -- really sparked my thinking. I had emphasized the cultural expectation for “justice” in the Arab world. But, I could not tell her the true source of that expectation, what it meant in this cultural context, and how it would affect expectations about procedural justice in arbitration or mediation. Sounds like a future law review article.

On the last morning of each ABA conference, a mini-tribe assembles. It consists of law professors teaching ADR in what is called the Legal Educators Colloquium. Our closing question concerned the future of ADR.  Several folks talked about the role technology would play. 

As it happened, I had the final word. I said that in a world described by Daniel Pink and Richard Susskind, value would still involve high-touch and high-empathy services. We, as ADR professors, were perfectly positioned to teach law students what that means and how lawyers and ADR professionals offer those types of services to clients. I described it as heart-centered practice. Many heads nodded.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Arab Gulf Region

Building the 
ADR Tribe

Seth Godin's book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (2014), has played a big role in my thinking and behavior since I read it shortly after its publication. 

Amazon describes the theme of the book as: 
A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have joined tribes . . . . It’s our nature. Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger and enabling new tribes to be born―groups of ten or ten million who care about a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming.

Who is going to lead all these tribes? . . . . Anyone who wants to make a difference now has the tools at their fingertips.

Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities for leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, readers…. It's not easy, but it's easier than you probably imagine.
For more, see his TedTalk here.

My New Tribe

On February 27, 2016, several members of the informal group known as the Arab & International Arbitrators visited from Dubai to meet with their counterparts in Doha.  In November, I had traveled to Dubai to attend one of the groups meetings and to begin building ADR relationships in the Gulf countries.  I met three marvelous people -- Dr. Hussam Al Talhuni, John P. McGowan, Jr., and Diana Bayzakova -- who are leading the Dubai tribe. 

Once I learned they were planning a trip to Doha, I began activating my still modest list of ADR neutrals in Doha.  I reached out to the Clerk of the Qatar International Court & Dispute Resolution Center, Christopher Grout.  I reached out to my Qatar University College of Law colleagues, and I reached at to arbitrators I had met when they began discussing a Doha chapter of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators

As part of this process, I had several calls with my Dubai counterpart, which eventually led to an invitation to facilitate a conversation about "capacity" in the region.  This invitation fed directly into my own curiosity about the state of ADR in the Arab Gulf.

I fashioned the following questions to prompt the conversation.  I am thankful to my colleagues on the ABA DR Section listserve who suggested some additional angles to my inquiry.

Discussion Questions 
  • Does the region have a sufficient number of neutrals to handle the disputes arising here? Enough arbitrators, early neutral evaluators, mediators, group facilitators, etc.?
  • To enhance this capacity, what kind of training should neutrals in the region have available to them?
    • Substantive.
    • Procedural.
    • Ethical.
    • Cultural.
  • How do we build demand for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services among businesses, government entities, civil society, and courts? What kinds of trainings and other interactions should we offer these potential users of ADR services?
  • How do we help lawyers understand ADR and its uses in disputes that they handle on behalf of clients? How do we help them advise clients about arbitration, mediation, and other ADR-processes?
For about 30 minutes, we used the questions to prompt a very lively conversation.  

Discussion Take-Away Points

In General:
  • Courts in the Gulf region have no infrastructure for referring cases to ADR, whether statutory or by court rule.
  • Arbitration is the leading form of ADR by virtue of contract clauses typically imposed by expat companies whose expertise is much desired in a country that is scaling up at a very fast pace in anticipation of the World Cup. They have the contractual/bargaining leverage to require the clauses. 
  • Government entities that have had experience with arbitration have not prevailed in most cases (4 out of 5 was the number given) and are now shy of participating in arbitration in the future when they feel the home courts will treat the government better.
  • Government entities wonder if arbitration can provide “justice.” 
  • While many people hold themselves out as arbitrators, good arbitrators are hard to find. “Good” includes substantive competence, especially in construction-related matters. 
  • Parties tend to pick lawyers as arbitrators, because even if they have not had formal arbitration training, they have some respect for legal process and procedural justice. 
  • Virtually no mediation is occurring in the region in litigated disputes.
  • Mediation has taken some root in Dubai in the form of a mandatory pre-trial ADR.
  • If mediation is to take root in Doha at all, it would likely be through a court or government imposed system. (Does such a thing exist already in specialized courts in Doha like the Landlord-Tenant court?)
  • Law firms trying to find competent mediators must go all the way to London. No real capacity exists in the region. Again, they are looking for mediators with substantive expertise, especially in construction-related disputes.
  • By having to go to Europe to find good mediators, the cost of mediation is high. 
  • Very few people, including local lawyers, have training in interest-based negotiation. Accordingly, they have difficulty conceiving of a process, like mediation, that can bridge the hardened positions of parties. 
In short, the region is fertile ground for building capacity to solve problems using tools that are still not widely accepted in the region.  

And, I feel lucky that I can serve this community in ways that will evolve as I learn more.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Civil Law versus Common Law

Groundhog Day as an Analogy

This week, I taught my Qatari students the difference between Common Law and Civil Law systems.  As I heard myself explain the major differences, I found myself wondering which system might be "better."

In doing the research for the class, I learned that the civil law system has the widest application worldwide.  About 150 countries have adopted it.  Born in Europe and derived from Roman law, it found its most famous expression in the Napoleonic Code of France. 

The idea behind it is simple.  The code organizes the law in a small book, easily accessible by the common man, who then knows with much greater clarity his or her legal rights and the procedures required to enforce those rights.  That citizen does not need to review -- at least in theory -- any case that has applied a particular section of the code.  Instead, the code serves as the primary authority and judges applying it are not bound by legal precedent created in earlier cases.  The text says what it says and that is enough.

The civil code legal system is like the film Groundhog Day, especially when Bill Murray's character, Phil Connors, wakes to the same day and fails to learn any new lessons of life.  At the same time, while faced with the same set of daily events or "facts," he is free to create whatever day he deems appropriate. 

One website describes the plot of the movie this way:
A weather man is reluctantly sent to cover a story about a weather forecasting "rat" (as he calls it). This is his fourth year on the story, and he makes no effort to hide his frustration. On awaking the "following" day he discovers that it's Groundhog Day again, and again, and again. First, he uses this to his advantage, then comes the realization that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing EVERY day.
Another website further explains:
Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and committing suicide numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.
In other words, a judge working in a civil law system handles each new case as if he has never seen a case like it before.  It is a whole new "Groundhog Day." 

Common law systems, in contrast, build on history.  Judges in these systems make rulings by applying the applicable law to the facts of the case.  They look to prior cases or precedent for analogies to the pending case, they distinguish similar cases, and they create new caselaw where none controls the particular situation pending before them. 

Using the Groundhog Day analogy, the common law system reflects Phil Connor's growth later in the movie, when he begins to learn from his experiences and tries to become a better man worthy of the love he seeks.  Each day he builds on the knowledge gained the "day" before even though he lives the same day over and over.

I know.  It is not a perfect analogy.  But, I do hope it captures some of the differences for my students.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Why Teach Legal Writing in English?

Growth Sucks!

"We were hoping the college would drop the requirement. That's why we waited so long to take the course."  So said a candid senior student this past week.

I teach Legal Research and Writing 1 at Qatar University College of Law.  Even in the U.S. students find the course challenging.  It forces them to grow in ways they resist.  And, it's a lot of work! No passive learning in this course.  Students produce a Memorandum of Law over the course of the semester. And learn critical thinking skills.

So, the course is hard even for native English speakers.  But here, in Doha, I am teaching Arab students who take the course in English. Some students have very good English language skills, even if they are not so confident about them. Some students read at about a fourth grade level.  My job is to help them engage in very sophisticated legal thinking while they read and write in English.

Why English!  Many of my student evaluations last semester expressed love and respect for me, personally and as a teacher.  But, they also expressed great dismay and concern about having to take the class in English.  They want to be and feel successful in their studies, and this course interjects requirements that can undermine their self-image.  

So, why?!!!!   Over a very long period of time, the administration of Qatar University College of Law have agreed that the next generation of Qatari lawyers, judges, and political leaders must be able to think and write in English.  It is the international language of law.  As Qatar plays an increasingly bigger role in the world, it needs employees and citizens that can interact in that world with great skill and fluency.

So, my little course fits into a broader program design to teach lawyering skills in English. 

I admire my students.  They are bright, beautiful, ambitious, and hard-working.  Even the student with modest English language skills has greater language skills than me.  I can say about 15 words in Arabic at this point.  I can recite a nursery rhyme in Russian.  I can sing along to French pop songs.  I can ask "where is the nearest discotheque" in Italian.  That's really about it.  So, I admire my students for taking on the intellectual work I ask them to do.  I hope they know that I try my best to help them traverse the demands of the course. 

On a more practical level, learning these lawyering skills while improving their English language skills could make them more attractive to future employers.  An article that appeared in The New York Times today  -- Young Saudis See Cushy Jobs Vanish Along with Nation's Oil Wealth -- suggests why this skillset may become critical to finding future employment. While the article focuses on the job prospects for young Saudis, parallels may exist in Qatar. 

Finally, I recently spent the day providing conflict resolution training for professionals working for one of the largest realty companies in the Mideast. The trainees were mostly expats from India, Egypt, Ireland, and other countries.  I was deeply impressed with their English language skills and their critical thinking skills. I wish my students had watched this event. Perhaps it would help them understand that these folks may be their future colleagues. These professionals have high expectations largely because the business world demands it.