ABA Conference Sessions You Might Enjoy


I love the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution annual conferences. They always put on a wide array of wonderful sessions and it’s a great time to connect with friends, old and new.

As in the past, I am listing some sessions that particularly intrigue me.  This reflects my idiosyncratic tastes and it would be a lot longer if I didn’t exercise more self-restraint.  Obviously, there will be a lot of great sessions that I don’t include.  I encourage you to add a comment highlighting sessions of interest to you (including ones that you are on).

ADR and A2J [Access to Justice] in These Complex Times – and – Justice and the Quality of Court ADR
There is a complicated relationship between ADR and justice. Courts are inaccessible for many people and problems.  ADR provides dispute resolution processes for many people who can’t be served by the courts.  Sometimes ADR processes promote justice – and other times, injustice.

I’ll Do It My Way: Differences and Their Outcomes in Federal District Court ADR
This session will present results from a new Federal Judicial Center study about variations in ADR programs in eight federal district courts.

Integrating Online Dispute Resolution into the Courts
ODR is becoming an essential part of our field, especially given the strains in the courts and need for processes to efficiently and fairly handle low dollar-value cases.

When Healthcare Goes Badly: You Don’t Have to Litigate to Solve the Problem
This program will describe three programs using early pre-dispute mediation for patient healthcare issues.

Rethinking Mediation Advocacy: Practical Strategies Based Upon The Behavioral Sciences
The Sections’s research on improving mediation quality convinced me of the importance of good lawyering in making mediation work well.  So practical strategies for this are intriguing.

What Does a Prepared Counsel / Client Team Look Like?
Along the same lines, it’s important for lawyers and clients to work well together.  Although one might assume that clients and their lawyers generally see eye to eye, practical experience shows that there often are a lot of tensions in these relationships.

The In-House Counsel Perspective: What Corporate Counsel Really Think About Mediators, Mediation and Their Own Role in the Process
In the corporate context, inside counsel can play a pivotal role in dispute resolution, often “mediating” between the business clients in the company and the outside law firms – and inside counsel often take an active role in formal mediations.

Debunking Myths and Identifying Pitfalls in Dispute Resolution Best Practices
They had me at “debunking myths.”

What Do Empirical Studies Actually Tell Us About the Effects of Mediator Actions? You Might be Surprised
I am interested in (and cautious about) research that might help practitioners.

Cutting Edge Research on Behavior in Groups: Implications for Negotiation and Mediation

Responding to Mediator Challenges
Mediation is hard work.  Getting a mediator’s high from orchestrating a good process is wonderful – and there are a lot of things that can bring you down along the way.  This session should help you figure out what to do when you get down.

Using Realistic Measurements of Litigation Risk in the Settlement Process
Lawyers and litigants generally do an absolutely atrocious job of anticipating trial results.  While these calculations shouldn’t be the only factor in making decisions about settlement, often they are critically important in legal disputes.  Help!

Balance and Efficiency in Design: The Many Touch Points for Dispute Resolution and Procedural Justice in the Settlement of a Class Action Race Discrimination Case
This session will describe the innovative system design that Lynn Cohn used as a special master, which is the subject of the article for which she received the CPR Award.

Re-framing Hate: Practice-Based Ideas for Dispute Resolution’s Role Regarding Hate Incidents
There is too much hate in our world.  Some heroes in our field will describe what they do to prevent and deal with the damage it can cause.

Saying It’s So Does Not Make It So: The Multi-Party Negotiation Behind the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
There are so many things that, with the benefit of hindsight, seem obviously misguided and we wonder why it took so much time and effort to fix.  This session will describe the complex unwinding of a policy that probably seems unwise to most of us now but was a difficult controversy at the time.

Teaching Negotiations in the Military: Is that an Oxymoron?
Although one might assume that the military is organized only to fight wars, I learned that military personnel regularly conduct military operations other than war (known as “MOOTW”s), which include conflict prevention, peace-making, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, peace-building, and humanitarian operations.

The Mediator as Village Elder
We often think that the process used by neutral, professional mediators is the “right” way to mediate.  This session will describe processes used for centuries in traditional societies and lessons that professional mediators can learn from them today.

Overcoming Impasses in Mediation: The Potential of Creativity Against the Constraint of Time
Mediation (and life) is an improv.  This session will describe improv skills that can be powerful tools for deeper understanding, creative growth, and better outcomes.

Ethics, Technology, and Dispute Resolution Systems Design
Alert readers will have noticed that I have become very alarmed about the way that social media contribute to anti-social interactions.  This session will discuss “ethical principles and standards for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), ADR, and Artificial Intelligence, illustrating the challenges and the opportunities they provide for enhancing access to justice.”

Mandatory Pre-Dispute Arbitration Agreements – The Pro se Litigant v. the Experienced Lawyer – Can We “Level the Playing Field?”
Discussions of technical arbitration issues send me into a deep state of MEGO.  But mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements involve fundamental issues of justice that our field has struggled with for a long time.  This session will describe ways to ameliorate the problems.

Democracy and Conflict Over Policy: The State, Local Participation, and People
This session will explore “how law shapes and limits dialogue and levels of participation over policy, and how we can design effective processes and systems given these challenges.”

Electronic Discovery: Practical Challenges and Working Models for the Modern Day Mediator, Arbitrator and Litigator
“Given that over 90% of information is now stored electronically, it is nearly impossible to effectively resolve a dispute through mediation or arbitration without addressing the exchange of electronically stored information.  This program will explain the basics of ESI, address the practical challenges that mediators, arbitrators and litigators face, and explore solutions to common pitfalls that otherwise inhibit the effective resolution of disputes.”

What Are You Thinking Now? 25 Years and Counting: A Roundtable Perspective Discussion with Former Section Chairs Looking Back — and Going Forward
This should be an important conversation at the quarter-century mark of the Section – and at a difficult time for our field and society.

Living Room Conversations
Joan Blades, co-founder of the Living Room Conversations organization and author of an early book on divorce mediation, is a really interesting person (who I happened to meet when I practiced mediation in the Bay Area).  With her husband, she co-founded a software company and, after selling the company, co-founded the progressive political group, moveon.org.  Despite (or perhaps because of) moveon’s strong partisan approach, Joan’s new organization is devoted to bridging partisan divides.  The website has a video of a TED talk, which gives a good feel for the process.

Center(s) of Attention: The Past, Present & Future of Law School Dispute Resolution Centers
This program features directors of four major law school DR centers.  As a metaphorical island-dweller (to use a term from Michael Moffitt’s article, Islands, Vitamins, Salt, Germs: Four Visions of the Future of ADR in Law Schools), I am particularly interested in this session.  But the evolution of centers like these should be relevant to all law school ADR faculty because the centers provide significant leadership for our field.

Advancing Social Justice Through ADR
This program will deal with difficult and important issues for our field.

Toward Integrating ADR Teaching, Writing, Theory, and Practice
This program will discuss important issues of making ADR teaching more realistic and coherent, something I have advocated with the use of multi-stage simulations.  This session will suggest many ways of integrating different facets of our work more effectively.

Lessons From the Stone Soup Project and Ideas for the Future
If you fail to attend this session, your life will lose all meaning.

John Lande
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