It has been my privilege and honor to serve as your chair in a productive year marked by many members and volunteers making a real difference. I will tell you about some of the significant areas we worked on, starting with leading efforts to promote civil discourse; activities of committees and task forces; publications; and Dispute Resolution Magazine.
In 2011, the ABA affirmed a resolution submitted by the Section of Dispute Resolution that sets a high standard for ABA members to promote civil discourse to resolve differences constructively. The Mediation Committee and the Public Policy, Consensus Building and Democracy Committee ran with the theme. The 2011 “Mediation Week” encouraged local groups to model how ADR can be used to promote civility and manage conflict effectively. Over 25 events were supported by the Section in more than 15 states and five countries. At the Section’s Spring Conference, AmericaSpeaks facilitated a town hall meeting to discuss whether mediators and arbitrators should be regulated and, if so, what the regulations should be. Fireworks were expected, but the town hall demonstrated that this highly emotional topic could be debated civilly with everyone listening to divergent viewpoints. Most recently, Judge Russell Carparelli from Colorado is being honored by the Section with the Chair’s Award for his efforts promoting civility. Judge Carparelli has taken extraordinary steps to promote standards of civility for new and senior lawyers, and his efforts deserve praise.
This was the year of task forces. Four targeted task forces were established. The Task Force on Planned Early Dispute Resolution (PEDR) was an outgrowth of a very popular Section publication, Lawyering with Planned Early Negotiation (2011) by John Lande. The group is working on presentations to corporations and law firms about how early dispute resolution can benefit their businesses and add value. The Task Force on Women in Dispute Resolution (WIDR) has initiated a number of activities to promote women in the dispute resolution field and increase opportunities for selection. WIDR pulled off an historic coup in April by coordinating the publication of issues devoted to women by the Section, the American Arbitration Association, the International Institute for Dispute Prevention and Resolution (CPR), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and the New York State Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Section.
In the last few years, we have been riveted by scandals in corporate America and academia. Federal Whistleblower Statutes were adopted to promote disclosure without fear. We wondered whether an ombuds program could be a more effective way to promote candor. A Task Force was formed to explore how the Section could promote ombuds – a fast growing ADR process in healthcare, education, and insurance. Their work is not yet done. Finally, the Task Force on Mediator Certification explored what position, if any, the Section should take in light of the increase in certification programs nationally and internationally. The product of their work will be published in the next few months.
The Mediation Committee has been particularly busy on three major projects. It launched a Mediation Video Center on the Section’s website. Thanks to a grant from the JAMS Foundation, the committee has also produced three public service announcements to educate the public at large about the benefits of mediation. Look for them on television! Additionally, the Mediation Committee is working on a feedback program for solo mediators to provide understanding about the value they bring to parties using their services.
Other committees have been similarly active. The Arbitration Committee completed a brochure entitled “Benefits of Arbitration for Commercial Disputes” and published two arbitration best practices guides on the Arbitration Committee website. At the Section’s Spring Conference, the Arbitration Committee developed and presented a full slate of educational programs. The International Committee offered a full day of programming explaining the role of mediators in resolving disputes involving multiple parties in different countries around the world. As dispute resolution moves global, there are new skills required. The Pro Bono Committee solicited the membership to identify the many ways members are volunteering and giving back to their communities. The response was outstanding. Pro bono activities of Section members are now a feature of the monthly e-newsletter.
The Membership Committee surveyed our members to determine what benefits are valued and what we need to offer in the future. One theme was clear: Practice development resources continue to be an important requirement. The Membership Committee is working with the CLE Committee and other Section committees to make sure we are offering our members those professional development tools. One obvious resource already in place is a directory of available training programs. The directory can be accessed through the Section’s website. The Membership Committee also made a big effort to collaborate with ADR committees of other ABA sections and state and local bars. By taking on this effort, we will leverage resources available from many sources and increase our own membership. For more information about Section committee activities, see Section News in this issue or visit the Section’s web site.
Our book publications continue to be superior. The 2012 best seller is Stories Mediators Tell, co-edited by Eric Galton and Lela Love; it is reviewed by Wayne Brazil in this issue of the magazine.
This column is not complete without mentioning the fantastic efforts of the many volunteers who comprise the Spring Conference Committee; the CLE Committee; the Publications Committee, the Telephonic CLE committee; the Mediation Institute; and the Arbitration Institute. They all form the backbone of the educational programs the Section delivers. The content continues to raise the bar for learning and is also our most important revenue-generating activity.
Finally, this year we will see the changing of the guard on this illustrious magazine. After many years of hard work and dedication, Frank Sander has decided to step down as chair of the magazine’s Editorial Board. Frank has agreed to remain involved as chair emeritus of the board. His leadership has been invaluable to ensure the quality of the magazine. Nancy Welsh from Penn State University Dickinson School of Law and Josh Stulberg from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law have agreed to take on the daunting task of following in Frank’s footsteps. Both Nancy and Josh are highly accomplished and respected in the field, but they will need your help. I know you will be generous with your support for their efforts.
I close with thanking you for the opportunity to be your chair. The year has been very rewarding; I made new friends and strengthened ties with colleagues. I learned and hope you joined me in that learning. I recognize though that all this could not be done without the hard work of the Section staff who work tirelessly to make us all look good. Thank you all.
Deborah Masucci is chair of the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution and vice president of the Office of Dispute Resolution at Chartis. She can be reached at email@example.com.