Lela LoveDonna Erez-Navot, and Robyn Weinstein (all Cardozo) and Vikki Rodgers (Pace) were kind enough to provide a recap of the recent Jed D. Melnick Annual Symposium entitled The Pound Conferences: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? hosted by the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution.

The Symposium opened with two former Editors in Chief of the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution—Brian Farkas and Lara Traum—giving a presentation on the history of the Pound Conferences.  Brian Farkas, commenting on Gaughin’s painting Where Do We Come From?  What Are We?  Where Are We Going?, which was used as a theme of the conference, reflected on how the painting sounded the fear and hope that we (as human beings) are either: 1) caught in an unbreakable cycle of repeating the same errors (“samsara” in the Buddhist world) or 2) involved in an evolutionary process. 

Following this, Tom Stipanowich gave a keynote address on Living the Dream: Taking Stock of the Quiet Revolution in Dispute Resolution.  His comprehensive and thoughtful remarks shed light not only on the history of ADR but also on the direction we are going.  For example, from “one size fits all” to “tailored to suit”, from “advocate-controlled” to “client-controlled”, from a “temple of justice” to “community”, from “adversarial” to “collaborative”.  And, as the rest of the day unfolded, there were many illustrations of these movements.   

The first panel, Designing Dispute Resolution Processes: The Multidoor Courthouse and Beyond, had several highlights.  Dan Weitz, the Director of the NYS Courts ADR Program, talked about nudge concepts and the architecture of dispute resolution processes in the court.  As he talked, I (Lela) thought, how wonderful to have such an inspired director of dispute resolution and authority of neuroscience planted in the bowels of the court system.  Erika Sasson brought to life the efforts of the model “multidoor courthouse” that is the Red Hook Community Justice Center, especially highlighting its Peacemaking Program that trains community members to resolve disputes using an approach inspired by Native peacemaking.  And Mariana Gonstead (St. Thomas) took us to Casas de Justicia in South America, showing how a multi-door courthouse model can foster foreign investor-State business relationships, in order to move from dispute resolution and prevention to investment retention.

The second panel of the day entitled Studying ADR: A New Focus on Empiricism examined the importance of reliable empirical information for our conflict resolution field–information that includes context, culture, and clarity about processes.  Two members of the Maryland Judiciary, Jonathan Rosenthal and Jamie Walter, reviewed the remarkable findings from the innovative study of mediation of the Maryland courts (www.mdcourts.gov/publications/reports.html), and Lisa Blomgren Amsler, a quantitative power house scholar in ADR, critiqued (and praised!) the Maryland study, raising, at the same time, concerns about the methodology of the Global Pound Conference Series (for example, a relative lack of users in the database).  

During the third panel, Technology Enhancing and Disrupting ADR, Vikki Rogers (Pace) led a discussion with thought-leaders on the future of online dispute resolution (ODR), and explored the relationship between ODR and ADR.  Alyson Carrel (Northwestern) presented a fascinating array of “wearable technologies” that are being used to improve participation and empathy of parties involved in ADR processes.  Colin Rule demonstrated several ODR platforms that his company, Modria, have developed for the public and private sector.  Noam Ebner (Creighton) questioned whether it was time to create a formal governance structure around ODR. Ethan Katsh – who coined the idea of technology as the “fourth party” in ODR – explored technologies’ impact on other professions, and its inevitable impact on the legal profession.  Regarding the imminent future of ODR, he noted that he was most excited to see the resources being invested in courts around the world (notably in British Columbia, Canada, England, the Netherlands and China) and eager to see how US state courts would start implementing comparable technological innovations.

The final panel, Reading the Tea Leaves, What Will ADR Stakeholders Need in the Future focused on trends in commercial dispute resolution for both ADR consumers and ADR providers.  Deborah Masucci (IMI/Cardozo) discussed the increase in the use of mixed-mode dispute resolution, specifically “med-arb”—a hybrid process where a non-adjudicative neutral such as a mediator “changes hats” by shifting from the role of mediator to that of an adjudicator. Noah J. Hanft (CPR) discussed an uptick in the use of pre-litigation ADR techniques in transactional disputes, and called for a greater role in early dispute resolution processes for transactional attorneys and non-attorney business professionals including CFOs and COOs.  Daniel B. Garrie (Cardozo) spoke about the use of supplementary expert neutrals as a measure to reduce litigation costs and expedite resolution, particularly in matters where complex electronic discovery issues are involved.  At the close of the panel, Robyn Weinstein, the ADR Administrator for the Eastern District courts, discussed the current landscape of ADR providers including the future of mediator certification and various initiatives underway to increase diversity among practicing neutrals.

Art Hinshaw is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the Lodestar Dispute Resolution Program at ASU Sandra Day O'Conner College of Law. His research and teaching interests focus primarily on mediation and negotiation, often bridging ADR theory and practice. He is an avid writer and contributor to ADR Prof Blog.