As alternative dispute resolution becomes more mainstream and accessible to lawyers and clients, it is imperative that young lawyers understand how ADR works and how they can use it to benefit their careers. Although you may not be able to become a mediator or arbitrator right after law school, there are still many ways you can use ADR early in your practice to advance your career.
Participate in ADR
If your law office engages in ADR processes, ask to attend or shadow hearings, as well pre-hearing conferences between the attorneys and client. No two mediators will have the same approach to resolving a dispute and typically arbitrators do not follow the same rules of evidence as courts. The more a young attorney can learn about ADR, and the proclivities of the various mediators and arbitrators in your jurisdiction, the more valued of a resource you will be to your employer.
Know your options
Become knowledgeable about the ins and outs of drafting ADR clauses. By becoming proficient in ADR processes, you will position yourself as an invaluable advisor to senior lawyers. You and your clients likely know that the vast majority of cases settle. By suggesting mediation, your law office can demonstrate your commitment to managing the client’s litigation in the most cost-effective and efficient ways. When proposing different options, walk your client through each of the processes and explain how they work. By involving the client at the outset, you’re demonstrating your preparation and advocacy skills.
Anticipate your clients’ needs
If you are a business lawyer, when drafting a business agreement consider including a dispute resolution clause. While the parties may not want to talk about disputes as they enter into their new agreement, point out that the goodwill and cooperation that led them into the agreement should likewise guide them into a resolution of any disagreements that may arise at a later time. As a young attorney participating in dispute resolution activities, you’ll soon understand how dispute resolution works and how to use your creativity to create a process that best suits your client.
Develop a reputation
Other internal opportunities to develop ADR skills include training partners and associates on mediation advocacy techniques, conducting training on negotiations, and providing presentations to other attorneys on ADR topics and trends. You can learn these skills at a number of local and national programs.
Make it your job to become an asset to your firm or organization by becoming an expert in ADR. Not only will it set you apart from your peers, it also can help retain clients when you keep their costs down and even bring in future business.
Lawyers who are interested in learning more about ADR can join the ABA Dispute Resolution Section and their local or state bar associations for ideas and programs. Many law schools offer summer ADR programs, including the Straus Institute at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California (http://law.pepperdine.edu/straus) and the Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard University (www.pon.harvard.edu).
Alternative Dispute Resolution, Alternatives to Litigation (Downloadable PDF). 2009. PC # 3460008PDF. Judicial Division.
The Client’s Guide to Mediation and Arbitration: The Strategy for Winning. 2008.PC # 1620388. ABA Book Publishing.
Order online at www.ababooks.org.