This has been a remarkable year in so many ways. My first important conversation as Chair of the Section of Dispute Resolution was with Patricia Refo, president of the American Bar Association, in August of 2020. Trish spoke about all the ABA’s ongoing efforts to bring value to members during the pandemic and amid the racial injustice that was becoming increasingly visible all across America. When she noted that this was certainly not the leadership year either of us had envisioned, I agreed, but I also shared with her my commitment to moving the Dispute Resolution Section forward in the best way possible, even in such challenging circumstances.
Shortly after that call, I started to experience new energy. I was experiencing the power of “yes,” the word I heard whenever I asked so many people to step up and take a leadership role in the Section – committee chairs, task force leaders, programmers, and many others. Everyone accepted the challenge – and then got to work. With so much positive energy coming from newcomers, long-time members, and those choosing to come back, I wanted to do everything I could to support them. Before long, as we realized that we were all working for the Section’s common good, a positive outlook became contagious.
As I write this column, we have just closed the books on the 2021 Annual Spring conference, titled “Agility, Disruption, and Reinvention.” More than 60 educational programs were presented by more than 200 experts in the field. We also gathered for social and networking events and to honor our award recipients. Almost 600 attendees joined us for the four days of virtual activities.
Other remarkable accomplishments during this year include:
- The marketing committee was fully staffed and very effective, under the incredibly capable leadership of Elizabeth Hill.
- Membership efforts were powered by the work of Susan Guthrie and her committee, including a first-ever new-member welcome social hour.
- Linda Gerstel stepped up on a leadership call to suggest that our holiday party be virtual, and off she went to plan, organize, and put on a fun and festive celebration.
- Under the leadership of Ed Lozowicki, David Tenner, and Harout Samra, the Dispute Resolution Section Arbitration Committee led a joint study committee comprised of representatives of the ADR committees of the Litigation and Infrastructure & Regulated Industries Sections in moving forward ABA Resolution 100, which acknowledges the importance of business-to-business arbitration.
This year’s Chair awards, which were presented during the Spring Conference, went to Ana Sambold and Jim Alfini, both of whom were recognized for their long-time support of the DR Section as well as their leadership during the 2020-2021 bar year. Ana Sambold imagined and led the Section’s highly successful 2020 Tech Expo, which brought together technology providers and dispute resolvers to explore, experiment, and expand. Ana, who brings great energy to anything she does, is always willing to imagine the unimaginable. Jim Alfini, who has enjoyed a long career in the ABA, is an outstanding voice in the dispute resolution community, offering wisdom and experience to so many of us as a coach, mentor, and friend. During this year, Jim has been a steady guide to Section leadership on all levels, providing advice to the Arbitration Committee in support of ABA Resolution 100 and helping with work to establish a task force focused on Covid-19-related housing issues.
We are undoubtedly living in unprecedented times. But realizing the positive impact of “yes” can make an enormous difference. It is a mindset that we can all work to achieve and cultivate in others.
In closing, I extend huge thanks to every member of the Section. If you are not satisfied, want to be more involved, or would like to get involved in a different way, just ask (and remember the power of both speaking and hearing “yes”). I know that everyone also joins me in extending gratitude to our talented and outstanding staff: Linda Warren Seely, Gina Viola Brown, Melissa Buckley, Brandon Moore-Rhodes, and Zeina Hamade.