In the world of “soft” dispute resolution, Frank Sander has been a force. His intellectual leadership, his enthusiasm and his generosity have all been essential in moving the alternative dispute resolution movement from a snowball to an avalanche. It has been my great privilege to teach alongside Frank at the Salzburg Seminar and other venues, to share conferences that expanded the knowledge and interest in alternatives and to advance the alternatives movement among professionals through our chairmanships of the ABA’s Special Committee on Dispute Resolution, which ultimately became the Dispute Resolution Section of the ABA.
As a professor and associate dean of the Harvard Law School, Frank had credibility that has been instrumental, perhaps essential, in convincing the profession that alternatives to litigation – from mediation to negotiation to arbitration to hybrids such as the mini-trial – are an important part of the dispute resolution process. He and Roger Fisher, another distinguished Harvard professor, led the way for what ultimately became Harvard's Negotiation Research Project. Their early work attracted other distinguished scholars such as their successor, Bob Mnookin. Always working collaboratively and with the philosophy of “letting a thousand flowers bloom,” Frank and his fellow academics succeeded in helping law schools all over the country shift from neglecting all discussion of alternatives to embedding teaching about them in their curricula.
At the same time, Frank recognized that it was really the practitioners – both lawyers and members of the judiciary – who would help the public and clients see the benefits of alternatives forms of dispute resolution. Frank's respect for and engagement of these early practitioners showed his ability to reach beyond the ivory tower as well as his constant interest in collaboration.
Any celebration of Frank Sander would be incomplete without some words about him as a human being. Above all else, Frank has been a teacher who has loved his students, whether they were bright-eyed freshmen or cynical seniors at Harvard Law School, emerging leaders from around the world at the Salzburg Seminar or grizzled skeptics at the highest levels of the judiciary and bar. In responding to skeptics, his passion for teaching and his personal good cheer were always evident – and nearly always disarming and effective. Those of us who shared time with him always learned from his example and were inspired to work with him to give alternative dispute resolution the integrity that would make it more effective and our justice system more complete.
Ronald L. Olson is a name partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Mr. Olson’s practice involves a combination of litigation and corporate counseling. He counsels individual executives and boards of directors in a range of matters, including transactions and corporate governance. He can be reached at http://www.mto.com/lawyers/Ronald-L-Olson