I love the annual conference of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution.

It’s my annual reunion with friends from all over and a chance to meet folks I haven’t met before.  I love the mix of practitioners, administrators, researchers, academics, and students, among others, who share an interest in improving dispute resolution.

The conference also showcases great work that people have been doing in the past year and there is something for just about everyone.

Here’s a rundown of some of the sessions that appeal to my idiosyncratic tastes.  I would have included more sessions but I didn’t want to make this post any longer.  Apologies to everyone whose sessions aren’t mentioned.  Feel free to describe other sessions in a comment.

Thursday, April 7

9:30 AM
The New Normal: Fastforwarding Dispute Systems Design in a ‘Majority-Minority’ World.  Noting that by 2044, the majority of the US population will belong to what are considered as minority groups, this session will focus on how to deal with disputes in this new world.  Given all the racial and ethnic tensions surfacing in the US recently (which have long been “under the surface”), this session is particularly timely.

When it Takes Three to Tango: Employment Counsel as Facilitators of Sustainable Success.  This panel of in-house employment counsel will facilitate a discussion of approaches to collaborative and flexible problem-solving approaches to addressing employment issues within their organizations.   I have become particularly interested in inside counsel lately as I think that they have the potential to initiate important DR innovations like planned early dispute resolution.

Revisioning the Role of the Lawyer: Building Creativity, Resiliency, and Healing into Practice.  I think it’s really important to highlight the role of lawyers as dispute resolution professionals and help them incorporate traditional DR skills and perspectives into their work.

Consumer Arbitration/Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Hot Topic Program.  I described this in a prior post.

11 AM
Isn’t There a Broader Way: The Emerging Dissatisfaction Within the ADR Profession and How to Address It.  “Concerns range from perceived underutilization of ADR and the belief that ADR, and mediation in particular, is not fully understood or appreciated by society at large. . . .  This workshop offers a fresh perspective on promoting the use of ADR and, more specifically, a suggested pathway to achieving widespread appreciation of ADR.  Participants will explore the concepts of “exporting” and “embedding” as well as other opportunities to “mainstream” ADR skills.”

You Too Can Do Empirical Research: Research Design and Data Collection in Four Easy Steps.  I think that good empirical research is valuable in our field.  After last year’s conference, I wrote What Me–A Social Scientist?, which you also may want to check out.

2 PM
The Next Generation: Law Students Speak Out on ADR.  Faculty may think that we know how students respond to our teaching, but it is hard to really know.

3:15 PM
Don’t Name the Cow: An Antidote For The Biases Of Advocates In Mediation.  This session wins second prize for best title.  (First prize? My session, of course.)  “When we name the cow, its relationship to us changes and we have a tendency to fall in love with it.  Similarly, when advocates fall in love with their assessment of the case before them, they are unable to soberly to assess the merits and worth of the case or see alternatives to a judicial resolution.”

4:45 PM
What Works in Mediation? What Do Mediation Consumers Value in the Process? A “Community Townhall.”  “Law professors who teach mediation will facilitate discussion, share results of a survey completed by Conference attendees, and summarize recent research findings about what mediation participants want from a mediator and the effectiveness of specific mediator interventions.”

Friday, April 8

9:30 AM
Polarized Communities: Lawyers Making an Impact How Lawyers Can Make a Difference Within Their Own Communities by Nontraditional Means.  “The panelists will share their personal stories to inspire others who find their communities in strife—places such as Ferguson, MO, Sanford, FL and Baltimore, MD.  As our country discusses vital issues of equality and justice, lawyers are looking for ways to do something concrete.”  Nancy Rogers and Grande Lum are on this panel and I imagine that it may be related to the Ohio State Divided Community project that Sarah mentioned in her two-part post, here and here.

The Client’s Perspective: ADR Users Share Insights Regarding what Mediators Do to Make the Process Succeed or Fail: What’s Working and What’s Not Working with Mediators.  “Learn from a panel of lawyers with diverse practices about what makes a good mediator stand out from the pack.”

11 AM
Reflective Practitioner Groups: A Boost to Your Mediation Practice.  I have long believed that reflective practitioner groups are among the most effective means of continuing professional education.

Managing the Evolving Needs of Parties in Government Mediation: Mediation is the New Formal.  “The evolution of informal real time processes such as coaching, ombudsmanry, and rapid response have led parties to avoid mediation—deeming it “too formalistic”, “formulaic”, and “time consuming.”  This interactive panel discussion session will explore meaningful methods to overcome party resistance to mediation and will offer tools to empower parties and attorneys in resolving employment, regulatory, commercial, energy, and other disputes.”

America at a Demographic Tipping Point: Does ADR Have Anything to Offer?  “The short answer to the question is “yes.”  What is needed is empathy to move beyond “us” versus “them,” to see individuals, not merely a stereotype of “the other.””  Like some sessions described above, this is very timely.

2 PM
The EDR Imperative: How to Use Early Dispute Resolution to Minimize Disruption to Your Business and the Cost of Litigation.  A session sponsored by the Section’s Early Dispute Resolution Task Force.

3:15 PM
Heard Not Seen: Internet Radio for the ADR-Minded Free Resources to Enlighten, Entertain, and Educate with a Dispute Resolution Emphasis.  I’m especially curious about this session.  Over the winter break, I started listening to podcasts and I am hooked on some including StoryCorpsModern Love, and particularly Serial.    I have been thinking about writing a post about why Serial grabs me so much as a DR person.  Stay tuned.

4:45 PM
Legal Educators’ Resource Share.  Back again this year, Bobbi McAdoo and Sharon Press host this popular session where we share stuff.  Like a F2F blog or listserv.

Saturday, April 9

10 AM
Help! I’ve Been Asked to Teach My ADR Class Online!  As a confirmed Luddite, I’m glad I don’t have to teach online (other than sending emails and posting stuff on TWEN).  But who knows, this may be the thing of the future for the young ‘uns.

Teaching Conflict Resolution in the Midst of Conflict.  Who needs simulations when you have real conflict?

11:30 AM
Negotiation Courses: Beyond the Roleplay? Expanding Your Negotiation Teaching Repertoire.  Several years ago, Michelle LeBaron and Nadja Alexander announced the death of the roleplay. But it didn’t die.  Maybe just not yet.

2:15 PM
Preparing Students for the Future of Dispute Resolution: Skating to “Where the Puck Is Going, Not Where It’s Been.”  They saved the best for last.

3:30 PM
Legal Educators Cookie and Coffee Finale.  Ya gotta stay for this.

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