Michael posted a five-part series – parts 1234, and 5 – by Heather Kulp, entitled “Fallacies About ADR Careers?”  I have some reactions to her series and we are going to have a conversation online.  This is the first part in our conversation.   Stay tuned for Heather’s response.  And feel free to jump in with your own two cents.

Heather, I absolutely agree with some of your cri de coeur.  It is along the same lines as the views of TFOI and my former student, Alyson Carrel, here and here.

In particular, I agree that many people assume that ADR is mostly limited to mediation of legal cases (part 1) and with your suggestions in part 5.  That part mentions several schools’ careers pages and I want to add Missouri’s FAQ page to the list, which I think has good advice that is generally consistent with your perspective.

I think I understand why you push back against overly cautious warnings from old fogies like me.  I plead guilty. With an explanation.  And a suggestion for balance.

My explanation is that I share your hopes that new graduates and young professionals will be inspired to do good work in our field and find satisfying jobs where they can do it.  As I described in a response to a comment by Alyson, I worry that some people will get false hope and be disillusioned if and when they fail to get ADR jobs right out of law school.  Indeed, I worry that some people might inappropriately fault themselves if they can’t get jobs that are supposed to be so common.  I’m sure that you wouldn’t want that either.

I am concerned that the posts are labeled as rebutting “fallacies.”  (I note that the titles of the posts have a question mark and I wonder if Michael was (slyly?) raising questions about this as well.)

Some of the premises that you challenge are that people won’t understand ADR or be respected without “X years” of experience, there are no jobs for recent graduates, and ADR jobs are not financially sustainable,

The challenged statements are absolute generalizations and one can usually find exceptions to such statements.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a substantial element of truth in the statements.  Indeed, you note that some of the statements are “half-truths.”

For example, some people do get jobs in the ADR field early in their careers, but I believe that it is generally hard for people to do so.  And it is also true that many highly-qualified people with a lot of experience have a hard time maintaining a solid living in ADR.

I think that it is quite appropriate to challenge overly cautious advice – and that, in doing so, it is important to provide as accurate a picture as possible.  The title and thrust of your posts feel to me to overcompensate for excessive caution.  And I would like folks in our field to explicitly acknowledge the important and often quite constructive role of lawyers as dispute resolution professionals, including when they act as advocates as I described in a previous post.

I suspect that we could agree in principle that it would be good to provide messages that provide a good balance of encouragement and caution, though we might differ about what the appropriate balance should be.  What do you think?

Click here to see how Heather responded.

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