Just over twenty-five years ago, in 1986, the then-Pepperdine School of Law’s Institute for Dispute Resolution was founded. It’s mission was the development of a robust curriculum focused on teaching students and practitioners how to better manage conflict throughout their lives and careers. The dispute resolution movement was nascent but growing quickly, and the legal world was far from settled on mediation or arbitration as a means of resolving disputes.
The founders of the Institute saw an opportunity to bring together leading academicians and practitioners to teach working professionals and students about the growing field of ADR. Little did they know, they were laying the foundation for one of the most prestigious dispute resolution training grounds in the world. Although it has since been renamed the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, the core mission of the Institute has never changed. Peter Robinson, the current Managing Director of the Straus Institute and Associate Professor of Law, reflects that,
From its beginning, the Straus Institute has been committed to five programmatic themes: developing academic programs for students, advancing understanding through scholarly publication, encouraging professional practice through conferences and continuing education workshops, assisting the resolution of disputes in religious communities, and applying its expertise as mediators and dispute resolution consultants by a commitment to service.
Not only has the Institute held to its core programmatic themes since its inception, it has in many ways expounded upon and shared its original mission the world over.
Today, after having served over 40,000 students and practitioners from every corner of the globe, the Straus Institute boasts a top-notch faculty just as diverse as its alumni, and the Institute can also proudly say that it has been ranked the number one dispute resolution program by U.S. News & World Report for eight consecutive years. Thomas Stipanowich, academic director of the Straus Institute and William H. Webster Chair in Dispute Resolution, notes that, “While most schools have only one or two faculty members teaching dispute resolution, each year Pepperdine has more than 35 leading scholars and experienced professionals…from Latin America, Asia, Europe, Canada and throughout the United States.” But perhaps the most telling aspect of the education students receive at Straus is the fact that its alumni are carrying the torch forward, leading the last couple decades’ proliferation of ADR practitioners, and raising the bar in ways previously unimagined. The leadership of many of the top ADR organizations in the United States and indeed the world are often a veritable “who’s who” of Straus alumni.
The success of Straus alumni is only an effect, however, and not the root cause of the Institute’s unique status in the ADR field. A simple glance at the Straus Institute’s course listings is more than enough to drive home the point that Straus truly offers one of the most robust trainings in dispute resolution one can find, anywhere in the world. Straus regularly offers over thirty-five different courses at any given time, and students have the opportunity to pursue a LL.M. degree, Master’s degree, or a Certificate in Dispute Resolution. Every summer, Straus Institute students have the unique opportunity to participate in study tours throughout Europe and China, meeting industry leaders in conflict resolution and seeing firsthand the leading dispute resolution institutions around the world.
Yet, Straus has always had a mission reaching far beyond that of just an academic institution. One of the elements that makes Straus unique is its dual focus on not only students but also on working practitioners. The Institute offers several skills development programs, ranging from its widely recognized three-day Professional Skills Programs , featuring panels of nationally recognized experts in dispute resolution, to its intensive, 42-hour Mediating the Litigated Case training where in-house counsel, litigators, judges, and other professionals are able to study the mediation of litigated cases to become mediators or better advocates in mediation. As the Straus Institute has become an organization of increasing global influence it has expanded its offerings to include annual skills trainings on the east coast, trainings in Europe, and most recently a one-of-a-kind LL.M. formatted for European lawyers and judges, which features courses and practica in both London and Los Angeles.
As if its top notch curricula weren’t impressive enough, Straus goes well beyond simply teaching students and lawyers how to resolve disputes - it actively engages in the practice of dispute resolution. In 2011, the Institute was honored with the Association for Conflict Resolution’s Peacemaker of the Year Award for its PACIS PROJECT in Faith Based Diplomacy. As PACIS Founding Director and Straus Assistant Director Timothy Pownall puts it, “PACIS addresses intractable, identity-based conflicts that exceed the grasp of legal remedy and traditional diplomacy, by effectively combining the transcendent power of religion with the practice of international diplomacy.” Among other conflicts, the PACIS PROJECT has played an active role in the ongoing turmoil in Syria by brokering talks between the Syrian government and opposition leaders, with the goal of creating lasting solutions for the Syrian people.
Whether because of its robust faculty, expansive course offerings, or global reach, it’s clear that what started twenty-five years ago as a small initiative to help advance the study of conflict resolution has since become an integral piece of our world’s evolving dispute resolution matrix. The Institute goes well beyond providing a world class education to its students, and is working every day to help individuals solve conflicts the world over.The Editorial Board at ADR Times would like to congratulate the Straus Institute on its impressive twenty-five-year milestone, and wishes Straus all the best going forward into its next era of dispute resolution endeavors.