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.

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