YourABA July 2012 Masthead

How women can establish a successful ADR practice

Recent research shows that women make up only 20 percent of leadership at law firms and ADR professionals, according to Gina Miller, vice president for JAMS Southwest Region, an arbitration practice. However, interest in ADR, or alternative dispute resolution, is growing among women, says Miller in the spring issue of Dispute Resolution Magazine.

“Those who want to develop a successful practice should understand that as ADR becomes more mainstream in the legal landscape, it's more important than ever to have a strategic plan in place to generate business and build a brand, not just as a woman, but as an expert in the field of ADR,” Miller says in “Tools to Help Women Succeed in ADR.”

Clients should perceive the process as a valuable experience and have something unique
in which to remember you, Miller says.

Women want to establish themselves as expert neutrals, not as “women” neutrals, Miller says. “They much prefer that clients perceive them as the right fit or one of the most qualified neutrals best at resolving difficult and complex disputes,” she says.

How to establish such a reputation and jump-start a career in ADR, according to Miller:

1. Gain significant litigation experience as a lawyer. “If the objective is to resolve legal matters, ADR goals will be met faster with a strong legal background,” she says. Nonlawyers can be successful but will have to spend more time establishing credibility: “Volunteer for court programs and take cases pro bono. Another option is to offer to co-mediate with a successful ADR professional.”

2. Create a plan of action and set a realistic timeline. Identify other professionals with successful regional or national practices, and find out what they do to keep their names top of mind, Miller recommends. “Find someone who would be willing to make an introduction for you,” she says. “Try to establish a relationship with other successful ADR professionals.”

3. Develop a style and presence. Conservative blue or black suits are not required. “Newer generations appreciate diversity,” Miller says. “In some cases, a unique style may capture the attention of a client. What's most important is that clients perceive the process as a valuable experience and have something unique in which to remember you.”

4. Craft a compelling biography that provides information about your arbitration style and, with permission, lists other professionals with whom you've previously partnered.

5. Target markets with growth potential that you think would be receptive to your style. “Ask clients who have used you in the past to be candid with what they appreciated about your approach and style,” Miller says. “Once you determine a trend, market your style at every opportunity.”

6. Get a better understanding of law firms' gender diversity goals and discuss how you might be a good fit. ADR consists of conflict prevention, conflict management and conflict resolution, Miller says. “There are opportunities in all three categories, and if organizations are pledging their commitment to gender diversity, use that as a way to optimize your opportunity,” she says.

7. Use gender as an advantage. In some cases, a woman is the preferred choice, Miller says. “Women should make sure that their individual qualifications are known and that the typical stereotypes are not perpetuated in their marketing plan,” she says.

8. Gather feedback from past clients. Do they perceive you as collaborative and facilitative or as aggressive and assertive? “Having a flexible approach is ideal,” Miller says. Whatever your reputation, understand your strengths and use every opportunity you can to expose them.

9. Network. Use this as an opportunity to show off your assertiveness skills.

10. Advertise. If possible, partner with a nationally known ADR professional, and leverage that relationship in your advertising.

To read the full article, click here.

Dispute Resolution Magazine is published by the Section of Dispute Resolution.


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