Out today on Law.com is an article discussing the current state of the business of ADR and I appreciate the shout out to the ABA DR section survey (published here) from the author Ben Hancock. His article is the first in a series addressing this problem. As the writer notes,
It’s no secret that Big Law firms and courthouses around the country have struggled to add more women and minorities to their ranks. But even amid incremental progress on those fronts, alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, has been a stubborn enclave of homogeneity.
Statistics are hard to come by and most ADR organizations are reluctant to provide data on their panels. But according to a Law.com analysis of the more than 350 neutrals affiliated with JAMS, one of the largest national providers of ADR services, 25 percent are women and 7 percent are minorities. More than 95 percent are over the age of 50….
The American Arbitration Association does not publicly list information about the roughly 7,000 neutrals registered on its rosters. But in business disputes last year, AAA reported that 22 percent of arbitrators selected were either a woman or a minority.
Those numbers show the profession falling significantly short of federal courts in terms of diversity, and coming up on par with the ranks of law firm partners.
But neutrals and attorneys interviewed for this article agreed that available statistics mask the true extent of the problem. Even if providers have a diverse roster of people to choose from, what matters is who ultimately wins work from attorneys and their clients. Many sources agreed that, within the realm of business disputes, there is a small pool of “repeat players” who are predominantly white and male.
Women also miss out when big dollar amounts are at stake. A survey by the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution published in 2014 found an inverse relationship between the amount of money in dispute and the likelihood that a woman would be chosen as the arbitrator or mediator to help resolve the matter. The study shores up the perception among neutrals that even when capable women are available, they are seldom chosen for the big-ticket cases that make their practice economically viable.