In February 1993, after years of adopting policies and practices supporting the use of alternative methods of dispute resolution, the American Bar Association created the Section of Dispute Resolution. That makes our Section an emancipated 21 years old this year. We have come a long way to earn a rightful and essential role in the administration of justice.
Can you even imagine a time when there were no court ADR programs, no large number of ADR providers, no in-house corporate early dispute resolution programs, no community-based resolution centers, and no law schools teaching the skills and legal standards of mediation and arbitration? Think how much has evolved and how the fabric of our judicial system has changed for the better, with litigants able to craft their own solutions through mediation and sophisticated parties able to negotiate and design other adjudicatory procedures to resolve their commercial disputes.
Of course, there are challenges for which no consensus has yet been found, particularly in the area of non-negotiable mandatory arbitration agreements between parties of unequal bargaining power or compulsory mediation for parties who cannot afford it. Yet for the most part, ADR has resulted in more satisfaction among litigants, and as an alternative to lengthy, expensive litigation, has been especially beneficial to an overcrowded, underfunded court system.
As the Dispute Resolution Section has grown exponentially, so has a new industry of ADR practitioners and providers. As state and federal courts have instituted their own ADR options, as law schools and business schools have broadened their curriculum to encompass ADR, and as businesses have instituted early dispute resolution programs, the field has blossomed into a bona fide profession that is self-sustaining and brings great satisfaction to those involved.
The Dispute Resolution Section is proud to have played an important role in this advancement. Our members have drafted ethical standards, engaged in research projects, evaluated the effectiveness of resolution procedures, written books and articles, conducted public and professional education projects, and provided information and technical assistance to members, legislators, government departments, and the public on all aspects of dispute resolution.
And we continue to be on the cutting edge of our profession. This Dispute Resolution Magazine, under the editorial leadership of Nancy Welsh and Josh Stulberg and their dedicated editorial team, continues the proud tradition that began with the first chairs of the editorial board, Frank E. A. Sander and Nancy Hardin Rogers, of being the thought leader of our evolving profession. Each quarter the magazine focuses on a theme that both educates and provokes its readers to a higher level of reflection about their profession and their role in it.
This issue explores the evolution of dispute resolution by examining ADR systems in the private and public sector, noting what has worked and what hasn’t. Other articles look at the growth of ADR providers and their role in providing services, and at the practice of Judicial Dispute Resolution. The International Dispatch feature gives us an update on ADR developments in Australia, and our On Professional Practice feature examines the enduring concept of self-determination – and how important context and timing can be. And finally, an article about a survey by the ABA’s Women in Dispute Resolution Committee looks at whether gender makes a difference in the selection of dispute resolution practitioners.
Today, the DR Section has grown to almost 18,000 members – practitioners, providers, educators, court personnel, and students – for whom it provides extraordinary value. For example, members enjoyed this year’s annual conference in Miami, with more than 80 CLE programs and presentations from Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, and the Hon. Rosemary Barkett, the former Eleventh Circuit judge who is now a United States-appointed member of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague. In addition to receiving this magazine, members have access to substantial research and academic resources on the Section web site as well as to innumerable ABA discounts for travel, insurance, office supplies, and other benefits. Section members can take advantage of committees in which they can participate more actively in areas of interest with colleagues throughout the world. Monthly CLE webinars, teleconferences, educational videos, and even some pilot regional meetings also demonstrate how the Section has evolved to meet and anticipate its members’ growing needs.
And now, after 21 years of sustained growth and development, we have truly come of age. Join me in toasting the continued success of our Section while you enjoy reading this issue.
Ruth V. Glick is Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution and a commercial and employment mediator and arbitrator in the San Francisco Bay area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.