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, new and old.

As I did last year, I am listing some sessions that particularly intrigue me.  The following 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).

The entire symposium on ADR in the courts looks great.

The Frank Sander Lecture: Implicit Bias: The Illusion of Neutrality.
Noted civil rights attorney Eva Jefferson Paterson, co-founder and President of the Equal Justice Society, will discuss the importance of recognizing, understanding and addressing our own implicit bias, particularly as it applies to issues of race.  The process by which even professional neutrals perceive and understand others is not neutral or unbiased and can result in disparate negative treatment towards women and people of color, even when seemingly gender and race-neutral policies are applied.

Dispute Systems in Context: Who Do They Benefit?
The program description states: “As dispute resolvers, we have an ethical duty to identify and improve how the systems assure justice and are transparent or accountable to participants.”  I think that DSD is an especially important part of our field that provides the opportunity for institutionalization of good dispute resolution processes (and, like all things, has the potential to produce adverse effects as well).

Building Trust and Resilience in Divided Communities
This year, I have written a lot of posts expressing my concern about increasing polarization in our communities and our politics.  This session describes efforts in Ohio, Minnesota, and California to address these problems.

Early Dispute Resolution – Making Resolution of Disputes Within The First 60 Days A Reality
This panel will explain how EDR processes are developed and implemented, how neutrals can work with parties to effectively use EDR, and how EDR has been used successfully.

Building a Reflective Practitioner Group: A Tool Kit for the Reflective Practitioner
For years, folks in our field have thought about ways to improve the quality of dispute resolution practice.  Last year, the Section’s Mediation Committee introduced its Reflective Practitioner Group (RPG) for mediators to share experiences and insights, help address the angst and loneliness of being a mediator, and increase mediator skills and effectiveness.  The Committee set up a monthly RPG call available to its members and this session invites people to consider RPGs in developing the tool kit necessary to support them.

New Perspectives on ODR: A Conversation with the Authors of The New Handshake and Digital Justice
This will be a conversation with the authors of two important new Online Dispute Resolution books: The New Handshake: ODR and the Future of Consumer Protection by Colin Rule and Amy Schmitz and Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes by Orna Rabinovich and Ethan Katsh.  Ethan is this year’s recipient of the D’Alemberte-Raven Award.

Arbitration in the Media: Insights and Resources for Practitioners, Academics, and Journalists
Although I generally am not that interested in arbitration, as important as it is, I am very concerned about how the law and dispute resolution are portrayed in the media, often with very misleading impressions.  This session describes arbitrationinfo.com, a website run by the National Academy of Arbitrators and University of Missouri’s Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution, which provides neutral, noncommercial, and comprehensive information about labor arbitration.  It will explore issues raised by the website project, including how journalists perceive and write about arbitration, what journalists need from arbitrators to conduct accurate reporting on arbitration, and how arbitrationinfo.com can be of help not only to journalists, but also to practitioners and legal educators.  Immediately following this session, the conference reception will be co-sponsored by the University of Missouri Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution and the National Academy of Arbitrators, Research and Education Foundation where you can meet prominent members of the NAA.

A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits: Resolving Legal Claims with Structured Negotiation
This session is by Lainey Feingold, describing her approach (an example of what I call “planned early dispute resolution”), which she has used for twenty years to resolve major disputes without lawsuits. The ABA published her book about her experiences and she is this year’s winner of the individual John W. Cooley Lawyer-as-Problem-Solver Award.

The Paradox of Power
This is a plenary session by UC Berkeley Psychology Professor Dacher Keltner, who is the Faculty Director of the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center.  She argues that empathy and social intelligence are more important to acquiring and exercising power than force, deception, or terror.  This sounds obvious (or naive) to folks in our community but is difficult to achieve in practice.  She describes a new model of power, rooted in social intelligence, responsibility, and cooperation.  This plenary is followed by a concurrent session considering how these ideas can be applied in mediation.

Strange Bedfellows: Achieving Dispute Resolution Success with Hybrid Techniques and Neutral Experts
Here’s the program description: “It is easy to get ‘stuck’ in examining the best modes of dispute resolution by focusing on better known ‘off the rack’ dispute resolution processes of mediation and arbitration and neutrals with traditional backgrounds.  This session will explore a different approach by designing a process that is responsive to each situation, creating hybrid processes, and utilizing newer approaches and non-traditional neutrals such as damages experts or case evaluators.  The goal is to offer a tailored process that provides the flexibility and creativity needed to satisfy the parties’ interests, needs and business objectives.”  This sounds like a good illustration of dispute system design on an individual case level.

Teaching Negotiation on the Tower of Babel: Strategies in a Cross-Cultural Classroom or Workplace
Hey!  I thought that Missouri trademarked the “Tower of Babel” in our symposium last year.  Actually, I’m thrilled that others are taking up this idea.  This session focuses on challenges of teaching dispute resolution to students who speak different languages and come from very different cultures.

Mediating the Muslim Couples’ Marriage and Divorce
Divorcing Muslim couples face an intricate situation as they attempt to reconcile religious values with the desire for a civil marriage and divorce in US courts.  Although this program focuses on how to help these couples, it sounds as if it will provide a fascinating window into a little-understood and stigmatized world in our society.

The Future of Conflict Coaching in the Federal Sector
I think that conflict coaching is an important and under-appreciated part of our field.  This panel addresses critical questions about how to optimize the use of conflict coaching in the federal sector and proposes a research agenda for collaborative research across agencies.

Making Negotiation Theory More Helpful for Practitioners
Negotiation theory is overwhelming, confusing, and often ignored by negotiation and mediation practitioners.  The panel of scholars and practitioners will discuss their analyses and recommendations growing out of a symposium entitled Moving Negotiation Theory from the Tower of Babel Toward a World of Mutual Understandingand then will engage the audience in a discussion of how theorists can help practitioners in their work.  Caution: I’m on this panel.

When “Yes” Means “No”: Rethinking Informed Consent to Dispute Resolution Procedures
I focused on informed consent when I studied collaborative law. While legal and ethical requirements appropriately require collaborative law parties’ informed consent, CL practitioners are understandably irked that other processes, notably litigation, do not have as stringent requirements despite greater risks.  Eliciting good informed consent is much trickier than one might assume.  This session presents research on litigants’ understanding of, and preferences for, dispute resolution procedures based on work in medical, social science and IT fields.

Legal Educators’ Colloquium Resource Share
This annual session organized by Sharon Press and Bobbi McAdoo is a must for DR faculty.  Informative and fun!  If you have stuff to share, please send it to Sharon by March 31 (though you can still share it at the conference even if you don’t send it in advance).

I think that the whole Legal Educators Colloquium is great and I always have a hard time deciding which session to attend.  So I could mention all the sessions.  But I will note just this one:

Systems Analysis as Applied to the Field of Dispute Resolution
This session will apply systems analysis to the dilemma of why public officials and politicians tend not to follow known dispute resolution wisdom as a way of teaching how to apply these tools in general. This session features Andrea Schneider, this year’s recipient of the Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work.

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus and former director of the LLM Program in Dispute Resolution, at the University of Missouri, School of Law. He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also an avid writer and contributor to Indisputably.org