2020 Spring Conference Request for Proposals

 The deadline for proposal submission has now passed. Thank you for your submissions!


We are pleased to announce that the 22nd Annual ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference will take place April 22–25, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference will begin on Wednesday, with the Symposium on ADR in the Courts, Section Meetings, and special events. General conference sessions, committee meetings, and many exciting activities will take place on Thursday and Friday. The conference will conclude with the Legal Educators’ Colloquium on Saturday. Throughout the conference we will take advantage of New Orleans opportunities for fun, adventure, dining, and networking.

The 2020 conference will be an excellent opportunity to share and learn innovative tools and techniques for successful conflict resolution and prevention. The conference theme – Innovation, Improvisation, and Inspiration – will explore the new techniques, technologies and methodologies that are being developed and used by dispute resolution advocates, neutrals, and legal educators. The conference will build on last year’s theme, which focused on the client, to help dispute resolution professionals, advocates and legal educators increase their competitive edge, achieve their highest level of practice and be effective in preventing and resolving conflict.

We are inviting proposals for 75-minute sessions that highlight both proven and cutting-edge approaches to resolving and preventing conflict and address how to develop and manage dispute resolution practices. We encourage you to be bold and imaginative in developing your proposals, and not to replicate sessions presented at recent conferences. (Descriptions of recent sessions can be viewed in the 2018 and 2019 Spring Conference Programs). Please share this Request for Proposals with your colleagues from the dispute resolution and related fields.

The proposal selection process is expected to be even more competitive than in recent years. Based on feedback from our members, the Conference Committee plans to schedule significantly fewer concurrent educational programs than in past years and Section Committees will be encouraged to curate programs that address the conference theme and the most current content in our field. As a result, we will be unable to accept all the wonderful proposals that we expect to receive for the New Orleans conference.

Submissions that are not accepted for the 2020 conference will be referred for consideration as possible webinars, podcasts and articles. In this regard, we are exploring the possibility of recording some podcasts and webinars at the 2020 conference and presenters who are selected to do so will receive presenter rates for the 2020 Annual Spring Conference.

We truly appreciate your expertise, time, and effort in developing thoughtful proposals.


  • Program proposals must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. (Eastern) on September 2, 2019

To review or download the proposal questionnaire before submitting your proposal online, click the proposal questionnaire below.


Requirements for Speakers, Moderators and Program Organizers - Any deviations from these requirements may result in a proposal being rejected. Exceptions must be approved by the Conference Committee, based on truly extraordinary circumstances.

  • A program may not have more than one moderator or speaker from the same organization unless the program is sponsored or underwritten by or for the organization, in accordance with the Conference policies.
  • A moderator or speaker may not participate on more than one program.
  • Accepted proposals must adhere to the ABA and the Section of Dispute Resolution diversity goals with respect to speakers. This requires that all programs with three or more presenters include at least one speaker from an underrepresented group in the profession such as a person of color, a woman, a person with a disability, or a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person. Program Organizers also should consider including qualified young lawyers on their panels. The Women in Dispute Resolution Directory (WIDR Directory) and the Minorities in Dispute Resolution (MIDR Directory) may be helpful in identifying diverse panel members.
  • All moderators and speakers must register for the conference and pay the applicable registration fee. Speakers will receive a significant registration rate discount for the conference. Speakers who attend only the program at which they are presenting, and no other conference activities, may register for $50.00.
  • A Program Organizer may submit more than one proposal; however, if more than one proposal is accepted, the organizer may only moderate or speak on one program.

Other Proposal Guidelines and Considerations

  • All proposals should be for 75-minute sessions.
  • Program titles and descriptions should be accurate and should entice people to attend the session. The title and description will appear in the conference marketing materials, website and onsite materials.
  • Sessions should be interactive and engaging. Spring conference attendees have told us they dislike panels of “talking heads.” The Conference Committee will carefully consider the format of the proposed session.
  • The number of presenters should be appropriate for the subject-matter and format of the program. No matter the number of presenters, the program should be well-organized, with any individual presentations woven together.
  • Proposals should identify specific speakers who have agreed to be presenters for the program, to the extent possible. A potential speaker may tentatively agree to serve on more than one session during the proposal submission process, but if more than one such session is selected, the person will then need to choose which program to participate in. Instead of identifying a specific speaker, a program organizer may identify a type of speaker (e.g. “construction arbitrator”); however, this will likely be less persuasive to reviewers.
  • Program Organizers are encouraged to consult with the chairs of relevant Section of Dispute Resolution Committees before submitting proposals. Committee chairs have a good sense of topics that are of interest to Section and committee members and may also be able to suggest appropriate speakers who will contribute to panel diversity. Committees or Committee Co-Chairs may endorse proposals in accordance with their policies; however, endorsements are not required or a guarantee of acceptance. A list of committees, links to committee websites and committee chair contact information can be accessed on the Section Committees and Task Forces page.
  • Sponsorship. We encourage individuals and organizations to become conference sponsors, exhibitors, and advertisers. Benefits and rates will soon be posted on the 2020 Conference webpage. Like last year, Diamond Sponsors may curate one approved concurrent program that may have more than one speaker from the same organization.


Factors that will be considered in selecting programs include the extent to which:

  • the program would provide valuable information for the conference attendees;
  • the program is consistent with the conference theme;
  • the proposal is clear, complete and well thought out;
  • the program title and description are clear, concise, accurate and likely to draw conference attendees;
  • the proposed program has an interactive, engaging and/or innovative format;
  • the proposed presenters have expertise in the subject matter of the program;
  • the proposal includes presenters who meet the ABA's diversity goals;
  • the proposal is endorsed by relevant Section of Dispute Resolution Committees or Committee Co-Chairs; and
  • the program content has not recently been presented at another conference.

Proposals will be peer reviewed by section members, committee chairs, and experts in the field. The peer reviewers will assess how well the proposals meet the above criteria and recommend whether the proposed session should be included within the Conference.

The Conference Committee will consider the peer reviews and make the final program selections. The Conference Committee may contact Program Organizers about their proposals during the selection process. Organizers may be asked to clarify, augment or revise their proposals before final program selections are made.

The Conference Committee anticipates making the final decisions on the proposals and notifying the Program Organizers whether their proposals have been accepted in November 2019.


By submitting a proposal, a Program Organizer agrees to:

  • Serve as the primary contact for the panel—including for communications from the Conference Committee, Section staff, and committee leaders.
  • Facilitate the coordination, planning, and implementation of the panel.
  • Publicize the program – and the entire Spring Conference – to relevant committees and other interested groups. (The Conference Committee and ABA staff assist with publicity tools.)
  • If MCLE credit will be offered for the program, ensure that appropriate, high-quality written materials are provided. (This should be in collaboration with the speakers but is ultimately the program organizer’s responsibility.)
  • Ensure that all program speakers are aware of the registration and other program requirements and register for the Conference.


Visit the 2020 Conference webpage or contact

Gina Viola Brown, ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Associate Director, Gina.Brown@americanbar.org, 202-212-9314 or

Alan Wiener, Alan.Wiener@yahoo.com, 310-463.4035


Click this Submit a Proposal Link


  • Harrie Samaras, 2018-19 Chair, Section of Dispute Resolution (term expires August 2019)
  • Joan Stearns Johnsen, 2019-20 Chair, Section of Dispute Resolution (term commences August 2019)
  • Gina Miller, Member, Standing Conference Committee
  • Jaya Sharma, Member, Standing Conference Committee
  • Alan Wiener, Member, Standing Conference Committee
  • Rishi Batra, Spring Conference Program Chair
  • Liz Carter, Spring Conference Program Chair