July 16, 2018

Spring Conference RFP


The 2019 Annual Spring Conference will be held on April 10-13, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Here is a brief sketch of the four days of programs:

  • The Symposium on ADR in the Courts will be held on Wednesday, April 10th
  • Most of the concurrent and plenary programs will be scheduled on Thursday, April 11th and Friday, April 12th
  • The Legal Educators’ Colloquium Programs will begin on the afternoon of Friday, April 12th and run through mid-afternoon on Saturday, April 13th

The Section seeks program proposals for the approximately 90 educational and networking programs that will be scheduled during the four days of the event.

**Please note that program proposals are due by August 31, 2018 at 5 pm ET.**

The Spring Conference Planning Committee typically receives between 150 – 200 proposals for consideration and it takes the committee several weeks to carefully review the preliminary proposals to determine the right mix of sessions for inclusion in the 2019 Conference Program.

Organizers of the accepted proposals will then have an opportunity to refine their program information, including confirming program presenters. 

The Conference Committee anticipates contacting program organizers no later than October 31, 2018 with the final selection decisions. 


The Conference Planning Committee has implemented new solicitation, submission and evaluation requirements for the Conference proposals.

To broaden the pool of proposers and to ensure diversity of ideas and viewpoints, the Conference Planning Committee is reaching out to our members, including law schools, courts, neutrals, ADR institutions, as well as organizations, corporations and law firms, to solicit program proposals.

The Section welcomes responses from all who desire to submit a proposal to address the 2019 conference theme: “Shining the Light on Parties: Enhancing the Experience of ADR Users”

We have identified the following objectives for the 2019 Conference to emphasize the practical aspects of:

  • What parties need to know to use ADR effectively in the U.S. and international arenas
  • What parties want and need from ADR stakeholders (e.g., outside counsel/advocates, law schools, courts, neutrals, ADR institutions) and
  • What innovative practices and approaches exist or are evolving for resolving disputes.   

Our goal is to engage many of our current members but provide speaking opportunities for non-ABA ADR professionals and others both domestically and internationally.

The theme embraces both U.S. and international resolution of disputes – many disputes involve U.S. and overseas disputants – and there are many emerging issues in those arenas that will be of interest to our various stakeholders.

We encourage companies, law firms, and vendors who are interested in this theme and who may want to reach the expected expanded audience of registrants to submit proposals for consideration by the Conference Planning Committee.

We invite and encourage other ABA entities such as Business Law, Family Law, Intellectual Property Law, Litigation, International, and the Judicial Division to collaborate with our Section and propose sessions which might interest a wider audience.

The Conference Planning Committee encourages our Section’s committees to collaborate with each other and propose joint sessions.  

Request For Proposal Solicitation Process

We want to promote more Committee involvement and member engagement in the Proposal development and submission process. Our goal is to have Committee leadership and members work in collaboration in a more formalized manner to develop proposals that will address the Conference theme and objectives.

We are encouraging proposers to pay close attention to both when developing proposals. Committee Chairs are strongly encouraged to work with their membership both to solicit proposals from members who want to submit proposals on their own, and to work with members to develop committee proposals.

We want to ensure that Committee Chairs engage their membership and work collaboratively to develop potential CLE and non-CLE programs that address the Conference theme and objectives.

In keeping with past tradition, we are continuing the practice of allowing a proposer to seek the endorsement of a Section of Dispute Resolution Committee that they deem is pertinent to their topic area.

For the 2019 Conference, we are limiting the number of Committee endorsements a proposer can select on the RFP Submission Form to a maximum of two Committees that are pertinent to the topic area or subject matter.

Endorsement by a Committee is an indication to the Conference Planning Committee that the topic is significantly important, the content and format are well developed, the topic is of interest to conference attendees, and the proposed speakers have the requisite qualifications to address the issues.

The Conference Planning Committee sets forth Potential 2019 Spring Conference educational program topics that address and highlight the Conference Theme and objectives.

These topics were compiled to provide guidance and inspiration to Proposers when developing their submissions. Proposers may submit a proposal on a topic area not included on the list, provided they can demonstrate how their proposal meets the Conference Theme and objectives.

We are also soliciting Proposals from potential Diamond Sponsors for inclusion in the Conference Program. We hope this effort will bring new sponsors and provide more diversity in conference participation and the inclusion of new viewpoints.

Diamond Sponsors will be required to meet the same Program requirements as the other proposers and must submit proposals that address the Conference Theme and objectives. 

There is no limit to the number of proposals a single proposer may submit. The Committee may select more than one proposal from a Proposer/Organizer. However, if more than one proposal from a Proposer is selected the Proposer will have to abide by the Speaker/Moderator requirements described below.  Diamond Sponsors may submit more than one (1) proposal. However, only one (1) proposal will be selected by the Conference Planning Committee for inclusion in the Conference Program.

Program Proposal Guidelines and Considerations

  • The Conference Committee invites program proposals in three lengths – 60 minutes, 75 minutes, and 90 minutes (there will be only a few 90-minute slots available). Please indicate your preference on the proposal submission form.
  • Proposals must address the conference theme – “Shining the Light on Parties: Enhancing the Experience of ADR Users” – and objectives.
  • Panel titles and descriptions should be punchy, accurate, and designed to convince people to attend the panel. The title and description will appear in conference marketing materials, website, and onsite materials.
  • The conference planners strongly encourage innovative program formats and discourage “talking head” panels. Be creative in delivering content to attendees. Use technology, creative formats, audience participation and/or other tools for your presentation. The proposed format of your panel will be a key factor in our review and evaluation process.
  • Proposals should consider the practical and educational needs of the audience.
  • The number of presenters should be appropriate for the subject-matter and duration of the program. No matter the number of presenters, the program should be well-organized and individual presentations woven together.
  • Proposals that list four or more presenters must demonstrate a significant need and specific role for each presenter.
  • Single speaker proposals need to especially demonstrate creativity and the ability to hold an audience for the duration of the conference session.
  • You may list speakers you wish to invite should your panel be accepted or list the type of speaker you would like to participate, such as “construction arbitrator” or “state court judge.” You should keep in mind the need to adhere to the speaker requirements described below, including the ABA diversity goals for speakers.
  • If you are seeking endorsement by one of the Section’s committees for your proposal, please indicate this on your proposal. Committee endorsement is not a requirement for submitting a proposal. Each ABA DR Section Committee has its own process for deciding whether to sponsor proposals. View a list of committees and links to committee websites (and committee chair contact information).

Presenter Rules 

  • Rule 1: “One Program Per Presenter.” No moderator/speaker should moderate/speak on more than one 2019 Spring Conference educational program unless specifically approved by the Spring Conference Committee. There are limited opportunities to speak at the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution spring conference and the Conference Committee wants to make this opportunity available to as many individuals as possible. A Program Proposer may be a speaker or moderator on his/her proposed program subject to this foregoing restriction.
  • Rule 2: “One Presenter Per Organization.” A program cannot have more than one speaker from the same organization or firm, moderator included, unless specifically approved by the Section’s Spring Conference Committee. The “One Speaker from an Organization or Firm” Rule does not apply to a Diamond Sponsor organizing a Program. 
  • Rule 3: “Presenter Diversity.” Program proposals must adhere to the ABA and Dispute Resolution Section’s diversity goals with respect to speakers. ABA Policy requires all CLE programs with three or more presenters to include at least one diverse presenter. According to the American Bar Association Policy, a diverse panel is comprised of at least one speaker from an underrepresented group in the profession such as a lawyer of color, a woman lawyer, a lawyer with a disability, or a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender lawyer. Program Organizers also should consider including qualified young lawyers on panels that are accepted. Diamond Sponsors organizing a Program must adhere to this diversity requirement.
  • Rule 4: “Presenters Must Register.” All conference speakers must register for the conference. It is the responsibility of the Program Organizer to ensure all their speakers are registered either as a speaker and an attendee for other conference programs and events (for which there is a registration fee) OR as “speaker-only,” which will limit the speaker to participate in only the one program for which they are a speaker.

RFP Review and Selection Process

There will be two groups of reviewers involved in the evaluation of submitted Proposals for inclusion in the final Conference Program. One group will be composed of reviewers drawn from the Dispute Resolution Section’s Committees. The other group of reviewers (Strategic Partners) will be a diverse group of individuals representing various interests in dispute resolution.

Committee Reviewers: Each Committee has identified three individuals who they believe have the expertise and knowledge to review the proposals as they relate to current and emerging trends in their subject area as well as the Conference theme and objectives. A proposer has the option when submitting the proposal to indicate if they wish to seek an endorsement of one or two specific Committee. A Proposer may not seek the endorsement of more than two (2) Committees.
Committee reviewers will be given the pertinent proposals identified by proposers as relevant to that committee. All proposals so identified will be reviewed by the three Committee reviewers who can affirmatively endorse proposals. The committee reviewers’ criteria will include whether the topic is significant, whether the content and format are well developed, whether the topic is of interest to conference attendees, and whether the proposed speakers have the requisite qualifications to address the issues. The reviewers will also be confirming that the proposals address the Conference theme and objectives.

For proposals that have no Committee endorsement selected on the Proposal Submission Form, Section staff and members of the Conference Program Committee will review the proposals and based upon the topic area and subject matter, they will forward Proposals to the relevant Committee(s) reviewers.

Strategic Partner Reviewers: The other group of reviewers will include about 30-40 individuals drawn from a list of past or present Committee and Section chairs, council members, active members, and in-house and outside counsel representing various interests in dispute resolution. They will review proposals in parallel with the Committee Reviewers. 
The Conference Planning Committee will then make the final selection based upon the evaluations from these two groups of reviewers. 

Program Decisions and Conference Planning

  • The Conference Planning Committee will finalize the selection decisions by October 31, 2018. Program Organizers should expect notifications from the Conference Planning Committee regarding the final selections by this date.

Program Organizer Responsibilities for Accepted Programs

  • Serve as the primary contact for the panel—including for communications from the Spring Conference Committee Co-Chairs, ABA DR Section staff, and DR Section Committee Leaders.
  • Facilitate the coordination, planning, and implementation of the panel.
  • Publicize the program (and the entire Spring Conference) to sponsoring committees and other interested groups (Conference Committee and ABA DR Section staff assist with publicity tools).
  • If the program will seek MCLE credit, ensure appropriate, high-quality written materials for CLE credit. We hope this will also be in conjunction with the speakers, but it is ultimately the Program Organizer’s responsibility.
  • Ensure that all program speakers are registered for the meeting either as “speaker-only” to present on this program or as a speaker/attendee to participate in other conference programs and events.

For questions, please contact the Conference Co-Chair Jaya Sharma; or Melissa Buckley or Gina Brown with the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Staff.

Spring Conference Standing Committee Co-Chairs

Minneapolis Program Chairs

Liaisons to the Spring Conference Standing Committee