September 2018

September 2018 - Ombuds Committee

Registration Now Open
18th Annual Spring Conference
April 7 - 9, 2016

Sheraton New York Times Square

CLE | Professional Development | Training

Sponsored by the Section of Dispute Resolution

See the tentative schedule at a glance, hotel and travel, and registration information here:

From the Chair

The Ombuds Committee proudly presents the September issue of Just Resolutions. Fall 2018 will be a momentous time for the Ombuds Committee. October 11, 2018, marks the first ABA-designated Ombuds Day. The purpose of Ombuds Day is to raise awareness of the ombuds professions, promote a shared understanding of the various types of ombuds, highlight the value of ombuds, and encourage greater use of programs, which adhere to accepted standards.

The articles here provide a deeper understanding of the nuanced way ombuds can help a broad spectrum of constituencies. The benefits to students, employees, and citizens is evident in these pages. Vaughn Finn and Chuck Howard lead off, highlighting the particular use of an ombuds program for law firms. Esther Salinas shares insights about some of the perhaps unintended positive consequences of ombuds in schools and their significant impact on student achievement. Sarah Miller Espinosa discusses how ombuds can improve the effectiveness of government, and Shannon Burton explores the concept of ombuds as civic professionals. We next interview Jason Shelton, to glean an employee and labor relations professional’s perception of ombuds and hear firsthand how his collaborative relationship with ombuds assists employees and supervisors. Finally, Susan Casino reminds us of the importance of emotional intelligence. She examines how ombuds foster emotional intelligence in an organization. 

We hope these articles help you gain a greater insight into the role of the ombuds. If you would like to join the committee, we always welcome new members. You can visit our webpage for information on membership, resources, and events. Please join us in celebrating Ombuds Day at the ABA Headquarters in Washington, DC on October 11, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm! We hope to see you there.

Caroline Adams & Elizabeth Hill, Co-chairs

Featured Articles

A Law Firm Ombuds — A Program Worth Considering
By Vaughan Finn and Chuck Howard

Corporations, universities, and state and local governments have long recognized that an ombuds is a valuable resource for employees dealing with workplace concerns. An employee troubled by potential improper conduct, unfair practices or other workplace stressors may be reluctant to raise the issue with a supervisor or Human Resources but might willingly explore solutions on a confidential basis with the organization’s ombuds. These concerns are at least as common, if not more so, in the law firm setting as in the corporate world. Ombuds have been very effective in helping people within corporate and other organizations raise concerns over misconduct and resolve disputes. Read more

K-12 School Ombuds: Transforming Conflict into Collaboration
By Esther Salinas

Conflict is inevitable. We observe conflict daily in international disputes, national politics, public policy, organizational mergers, and social media. Conflict touches us personally through our relationships at work, places of worship, neighborhoods, and at home. We regularly wrestle with internal conflict as we engage in problem solving. Conflict is like Mary’s little lamb in the nursery rhyme, “everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.” No matter where we go, or with whom we interact, conflict is sure to find us – and even follows us to school.  School districts are complex learning organizations with inherent challenges that incubate opportunities for miscommunication, conflict and disputes. Read more

The Organizational Ombuds: Enhancing Government through Conflict Resolution
By Sarah Miller Espinosa

Community members have a shared interest in maximizing the effectiveness and quality of state and local government services, and taxpayer funded government services are most typically provided by public sector employees. Ensuring public sector workplaces where employees may seek assistance in raising and resolving workplace issues and concerns contributes to an atmosphere that fosters employee engagement and productivity. An organizational ombuds program is one tool which can assist in the resolution and mitigation of workplace conflict. Read more

Ombuds as Civic Professionals
By Shannon Lynn Burton

As an idea that burst into popular vernacular in the 1900s, “ombudsmen” have existed as far back as the 1700s. According to the ABA, “Ombuds protect: the legitimate interests and rights of individuals with respect to each other; individual rights against the excesses of public and private bureaucracies; and those who are affected by and those who work within these organizations.” In its earliest iterations, an ombuds was trusted with keeping “an eye on bureaucracy --- especially the judges and tax collectors.” While King Charles XII of Sweden first outlined this concept, the Swedish Parliament also saw the value of the role in its political structures and followed suit, outlining the ombuds concept in its Constitution of 1809. While the idea has expanded to include different types of ombuds: classical, advocate, organizational, among others; at the center of this role is attending to fairness and due process within systems and organizations. Read more

Ombuds Partners: An Interview with Employee & Labor Relations
Interview by Caroline Adams

The ombuds role is often confused with that of Human Resources’ employee relations function. In actuality, the roles are markedly different. Ombuds maintain greater confidentiality, are independent and impartial in relation to the administration, and do not get involved in formal processes. Certainly, ombuds and HR may see many of the same cases. These can include disagreements between supervisors and employees, concerns with classification or salary, or more pervasive issues such as bullying or low morale. If HR and ombuds approach these problems together, with their differing roles, perspectives, information, and backgrounds, they can be more effective than either of them would be individually.

Read this interview with Jason Shelton at the University of Colorado Boulder, about his experience working with ombuds.

The Best Way to Minimize Workplace Conflict Is by Raising the Collective EQ rather than IQ
By Susan Casino

Call it civility or kindness, common decency or behavior competencies, ultimately they all point to the same critical skills of Emotional Intelligence (aka EI or EQ) that are required to cultivate a healthy work environment. The feasibility of using our human emotions in an intelligent manner and understanding that emotions do not need to cripple us, has been a game changer for many people personally and in the workplace. With the introduction of EQ in the 1980s, came an enormous amount of scientific data that shed light on why, for some people, feelings of anger, hurt or jealousy often result in a personal eruption or shutdown. This same research provides tools for dealing with these emotions. Read More

Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence

This user-friendly, practical resource is designed for today’s legal professional who desires to improve their communication, client service and leadership skills and create a high performance, high functioning workplace.

Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence is the first comprehensive guide to understanding and raising emotional intelligence (EI) in the unique context of law practice.

Get your copy from the ABA Store today!

Edwards Mediation Academy

Ombuds Day

October 11, 2018 5:30 – 7:30
1050 Connecticut Ave. NW, 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

The Dispute Resolution Section Ombuds Committee warmly invites you to attend a reception to celebrate the inaugural Ombuds Day!

The evening will feature opening remarks from Charles Howard; small table discussions with different types of prominent ombuds from a variety of industries; and opportunities to learn more about the role, function, and value of ombuds.

Please come whether you’re an ombuds, stakeholder (i.e., you work within and/or with organizations), or just curious.  Light refreshments will be served. 


Mediation Week

ABA Mediation Week will be held during the week of October 14 - 20, 2018. The theme for this year’s ABA Mediation Week is “Mediation, Civil Discourse, and ABA 2011 Resolution 108”

Organizations and Institutions from around the world will hold events in recognition of ABA Mediation Week.

Visit the Mediation Week web site for a list of events in your area and a Mediation Event in a Box Toolkit to help get started with your organization’s Mediation Week event:

16th Annual Advanced Mediation & Advocacy Skills Institute

October 25-26
Chicago, IL

Join the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution in Chicago for a two-day interactive institute featuring rare opportunities to learn from some of the leading mediators and advocates in North America.

Each plenary session panel will feature an expert mediator, in-house counsel, and skilled outside attorney discussing each phase of the mediation process. Small group discussions led by experts in the field follow each of the plenary sessions.

The opportunity for mediators and advocates to interact in small facilitated groups provides a unique environment to enhance your skill, knowledge and understanding of the mediation process.

Earn CLE credit while building your practice and advancing your skills to improve mediation outcomes!


Law School Competition

Registration for the 20th annual Representation in Mediation Competition. Regional Competitions will take place at law schools across the country in late February and early March 2019.

The National Finals will be held on April 10-11, 2019, in conjunction with the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference in Minneapolis.

For More Information

Save the Date

"Shining the Light on the Parties in Dispute Resolution"

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

Whether you are new to dispute resolution practice or have been practicing for decades, the 2019 ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference has something for you.

More Information

2018 Boskey Competition

Robin Gonzales, a student at UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law, was selected as the winner of the 2018 Boskey Essay competition. His essay, Is the Bargaining Table Broken? Improving Nevada's Interest Arbitration Procedure for Clark County School District and its Teacher's Union, was deemed by the James Boskey Judging Committee as the winning entry. Read the winning essay.

Gavin Deeb, a student at UC Davis School of Law, received an Honorable Mention, for his essay, New York Convention on Arbitral Awards. Read the Honorable Mention essay.

The James Boskey ADR Writing Competition is named in memory of James B. Boskey, an intellectual, humanitarian, Seton Hall University law professor, and mediator. The purpose of the competition is to create greater interest in the field of dispute resolution among all law students of the nation, particularly the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association.

Weinstein JAMS Fellowship

The Weinstein JAMS International Fellowship constitutes the JAMS Foundation’s primary international initiative to support ADR practitioners worldwide in the promotion and advancement of conflict resolution in their home countries and beyond.

The program is intended specifically for individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to ADR and who wish to increase the availability of ADR education and services in their home countries. 

Fellowship applicants who have experience as lawyers, law professors, court administrators, government officers, ADR practitioners, or judges are given strong preference in the application process. Applications for the 2019 Weinstein JAMS Fellowship program are due Nov. 16, 2018.

For More Information

The Monthly Missalette on Relational Practice

By Louise Phipps Senft

We face a crisis of well-being in the legal system which causes great suffering in society and throughout the legal profession. That may be why many of us have chosen to shift our legal work to dispute resolution. But even for dispute resolvers, we still face seemingly insurmountable adversarial obstacles, all of which takes a toll on well-being.  If this resonates for you, then you may be very interested in a response that fosters a paradigm shift from what I call a Transactional Ethic to a Relational Ethic. Read more

ADR Job Announcement

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit invites applications for the position of Circuit Mediator. The Circuit Mediation Office is staffed by a Chief Circuit Mediator and seven Circuit Mediators.

The mediators facilitate settlement discussions among parties and their counsel in a wide range of civil cases, including civil rights, tribal, employment, intellectual property, insurance, contracts and environmental matters. To apply, visit the Ninth Circuit’s Career Portal.

Copyright 2018© by the American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

The materials contained herein represent the opinions of the authors and editors and should not be construed to be those of either the American Bar Association or Section of Dispute Resolution unless adopted pursuant to the bylaws of the Association. Nothing contained herein is to be considered as the rendering of legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel. These materials and any forms and agreements herein are intended for educational and informational purposes only.