Thank you to FOI Erin Archerd and Nancy Welsh for writing this wonderful summary of the meeting:

On Friday, January 8th, Jim Alfini (South Texas College of Law) and Nancy Welsh (Penn State Dickinson Law) took advantage of a professorial quorum provided by the annual AALS Conference in New York to meet and discuss how, as legal academics, we could better liaise with the American Bar Association.  An overarching theme of the 90-minute discussion was how to best disseminate information to members of the ABA Dispute Resolution Section and how to encourage legal academics within the Section to participate in Section events and opportunities, including informing the ABA’s response to ADR-related issues.

It turns out the Dispute Resolution Section (the Section) has an usually large number of academics in comparison to many other ABA sections, and yet we have not been as active as some other sections in proposing resolutions for adoption by the ABA House of Delegates.   Some of the Section’s successes include persuading the House of Delegates to support the Uniform Mediation Act and the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators.  The Section has recently developed a health care-related resolution to go before the House.  Other sections, such as Criminal Justice, can have multiple resolutions on the House’s slate.  Section members with items to propose for ABA resolution can start by reaching out to ABA Section Delegates Jim Alfini or Bruce Meyerson, Chair-Elect Nancy Welsh, or Section staff at the ABA (David Moora, Gina Brown, and Matthew Conger).  They can connect members with the relevant Section committee.  The committees generally determine whether to recommend action by the Section’s Council, which then can lead to the proposal of a resolution to the House of Delegates.  (And by the way, legal academics also serve on the Section’s Council and Executive Committee.)

Participating in the Section’s Mediation Institute, Arbitration Institute, or Negotiation Institute is another way that legal academics can become more involved in the Section. Presenters and discussion group leaders at the Institutes have their registration fees waived, so while presenters and discussion group leaders still have to pay travel and hotel costs, they receive a significant cost savings and the benefits of learning about current practitioners’ perspectives on the field.

Writing white papers and letters is another way legal academics can work with the Section.  In the past year, members have helped draft white papers on topics like ADR and Access to Justice and have helped to develop comments in connection with rule-making by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Members who believe that a particular situation might benefit from the Section’s input should consider volunteering to be part of one of the Section’s task forces or committees responsible for drafting letters or white papers for adoption by the Section’s Council.

Of course, the highlight of Section programming for legal academics is the Legal Educators Colloquium (the LEC) at the Spring Conference.  There continues to be discussion as to whether the LEC should be more focused on academic research or pedagogy, though meeting participants also noted that there might be opportunities and interest in expanding pedagogy/training focused sessions into the general conference.

Brian Pappas (Michigan State University College of Law) updated the group on the ABA Representation in Mediation Competition and ideas for increasing participation and reducing the burden on host schools.  Some of those ideas included increasing the price of participation so that organizers could double the number of teams moving on the national competition and potential CLE programs for those who judge the competition to help with recruiting.  Mariana Hernandez Crespo (St. Thomas School of Law) and Brian will be stepping down as organizers of the competition and turning the reins over to Eric DeGroff (Regent University School of Law).  As many of us who have hosted the competition regionally know, it is a huge undertaking, so thanks to everyone who has worked to keep the competition going.

Finally, Jim Alfini asked those of us in the legal academy to urge our deans to consider sponsoring the Spring Conference, at least at the Friend level ($100 or more) to show the support of the academic community for the ABA’s continued success in promoting dispute resolution.

  • Update: There are three sponsorship levels: Silver ($2500 which includes a number of things including two complimentary registrations–a potential value of $1280); Patron ($1500, which includes one complimentary registration, a potential value of $640) and a Friend (minimum of $100).  Alyson Carrel (Northwestern) and Kelly Olson (Arkansas at Little Rock), who are working hard to plan the Spring Conference, noted the complimentary registrations at the meeting.

big thank you to Cardozo’s Lela Love or hosting the meeting and treating attendees to some truly massive NY pizza slices and other goodies!

he ABA Section on Dispute Resolution has a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter handle (@ABA_DR), and is looking forward to seeing everyone at the 18th Annual Spring Conference, including the Legal Educators Colloquium on Saturday, April 9th.

Cyntha Alkon is an Associate Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Prior to joining academia, she was a criminal defense lawyer and worked in rule of law development in Eastern Europe and Central Asia focusing on criminal justice reform issues. She is a contributor of ADR Prof Blog.