This conversation began with my questioning Heather Kulp about her series of posts in which she critiqued what she saw as some fallacies about ADR jobs.   Heather responded, reflecting her sense of obligation to help students interested in ADR to get jobs.

When we last left the conversation, I started by identifying things I thought we agreed about.  Then I suggested that it was hard to define distinctly “ADR jobs” and I asked what she meant by the term.

Here’s her response.


You’ve demonstrated some excellent paraphrasing here.  Perhaps I can use this as an example in my course’s active listening exercise?

A little spring break humor aside, we do seem to agree with one another on what we hope our students receive from us, i.e., a realistic picture of ADR work possibilities, not just for their first jobs out of law school, but for their careers.

Onto a bigger question: how to define “ADR careers.”  It seems you agree with me that when people talk about ADR careers, they’re often talking (too narrowly) about private practice as a mediator or arbitrator.  ADR skills are indeed useful—and can give you an advantage—in a variety of legal and non-legal positions.  Thus, instead of defining what an “ADR careers” might be, I’m wondering if we can define a few different buckets of skills ADR folks tend to share:
  • Teaching/training:  lecturing, facilitating, creating a learning container, developing/writing exercises, designing curriculum, thinking pedagogically, managing a classroom, developing evaluation metrics, etc.
  • Coaching/consulting:  interviewing, identifying problems or conflicts, diagnosing potential causes, developing easy-to-understand recommendations for improvement, helping an organization or individual think through how to implement modifications, giving difficult feedback, etc.
  • Designing:  thinking systematically and creatively, developing and administering assessment and evaluation tools, zooming in and out of complex processes, engaging in research, etc.
  • Providing direct services:  mediating, arbitrating, representing parties in ADR processes, advising parties in a negotiation or negotiating on a party’s behalf, etc.

Of course, none of these skills is exclusive to the particular skill bucket.   Also, most ADR folks employ more than one of these skill sets in their jobs, and most ADR folks likely have done most if not all of these in their careers.  The important thing (and what I tell my students) is to develop each of these skill sets to a degree of competence, because most jobs with an ADR tattoo* will involve some combination of these.

By talking about skills rather than types of jobs, I think we can more accurately and helpfully coach our students on how they can improve the likelihood of substantially calling upon ADR skills in their next job.  What do you think?


*Thanks to Jen Reynolds for this helpful term.  Forgive its use out of the original context, which can be found here.


Click here for the final part in this conversation.

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