Top 12 ADR Programs of 2021

In the second part of a series focusing on introducing the best resources on ADR, this article will look at the top 12 best law school dispute resolution programs.  Each year, US News ranks universities, law schools, and other graduate schools based on their academic strength, professors, programs, and admissions, along with a host of other criteria.  Within the general lists, US News also ranks different programs offered at the law schools.  One of these lists focuses on the training provided through dispute resolution programs. This list will focus on the top 12 from that list, found here. Dispute resolution programs focus on preparing students to help resolve conflict through mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and other innovative ideas.

This article will look at each of the top programs and evaluate it from a prospective student’s perspective.  It will list factors such as tuition, acceptance rate, mediation LSAT score and undergrad GPA, and location.  It will also provide a brief overview of the program’s offerings and what sets it apart from the others.  Finding the best program for your needs and wants is so important to achieving your goals, so continue reading to learn more about these programs.

#1: Harvard

  • Tuition: $65,875
  • Acceptance Rate: 13%
  • Median LSAT: 173
  • Median GPA: 3.88
  • Location: Cambridge, MA

Harvard is usually in the top three dispute resolution programs, topping the current list with their Harvard Program on Negotiation (https://www.pon.harvard.edu/) and mediation Clinical Program.  The program trains students in dispute systems design, negotiation, mediation, and facilitation.  The program includes a Mediation Clinic, where students observe and facilitate mediations in the Boston area, and a Dispute Systems Design Clinic, where students participate and hone their skills by designing systems for conflict resolution in businesses and organizations.  Students in this program gain hands-on experience in both facilitation and design, encouraging innovation.

#2: Ohio State

  • Tuition: $32,060 (in-state) or $47,312 (out-of-state)
  • Acceptance Rate: 36.1%
  • Median LSAT: 161
  • Median GPA: 3.79
  • Location: Columbus, OH

Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law (https://moritzlaw.osu.edu/program-on-dispute-resolution/)  offers a Certificate in Dispute Resolutions and a Program on Dispute Resolution, which focuses on preparing students to facilitate and participate in all areas of dispute resolution.  Ohio State also has a Mediation Clinic, where students can participate in observing a facilitating mediation in small claims court and a Dispute System Design Workshop, where students design conflict resolution systems for outside clients. The Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution is also a part of this program, allowing students to research and write on topics at the forefront of dispute resolution.  Students here get to participate in research and design experiences that are not available in other schools.

#3: Pepperdine (tie)

  • Tuition: $59,280
  • Acceptance Rate: 36.3%
  • Median LSAT: 162
  • Median GPA: 3.68
  • Location: Malibu, CA

Pepperdine hosts the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution (https://law.pepperdine.edu/straus/), an internationally recognized program for law school dispute resolution instruction.  Students can earn a Certificate in Dispute Resolution or earn a joint Masters in Dispute Resolution while earning their JD.  The Straus Institute has a Mediation Clinic, where students mediate small claims, limited jurisdictions, and TRO cases in Los Angeles.  They also have a Fair Employment and Housing Mediation, where students work with DFEH lawyers to prepare cases for mediation and settle employment claims.  The Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal also provides an experience for students to learn about new topics in ADR.  Pepperdine in particular has many connections in ADR both in the Los Angeles area and internationally, making it a great place to start a legal career.

#3: Missouri (Columbia) (tie)

  • Tuition: $20,697 (in-state) or $39,369 (out-of-state)
  • Acceptance Rate: 55%
  • Median LSAT: 158
  • Median GPA: 3.66
  • Location: Columbia, MO

The University of Missouri School of Law hosts the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution (https://law.missouri.edu/csdr/), where students can earn Certificates in Dispute Resolution or an LLM in Dispute Resolution.  The school publishes the Journal of Dispute Resolution, allowing students to write and study all aspects of dispute resolution.  Students may also study dispute resolution in South Africa through the study abroad program.   Additionally, many of the academic classes offered under the program allow students to fast-track their training to become mediators or arbitrators.

#5: Cardozo

  • Tuition: $63,900
  • Acceptance Rate: 40.3%
  • Median LSAT: 162
  • Median GPA: 3.65
  • Location: New York, NY

Cardozo offers the Kukin Program for Conflict Resolution (https://cardozo.yu.edu/academics-and-clinics/areas-study/arbitration-mediation-and-collaborative-law), which offers a Mediation Clinic, A Divorce Mediation Clinic, a Field Clinic where students work at ADR services organizations, and a Securities Arbitration Clinic.  There is also the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution to allow students to write and learn about topics in ADR.  They also offer the ADR Competition Honor Society, where students participate in negotiation, arbitration, and mediation competitions.  Cardozo offers a large variety of clinics and gives students the ability to compete and learn more about their field.

#6: Mitchell Hamline (tie)

  • Tuition: $46,550
  • Acceptance Rate: 57.5%
  • Median LSAT: 152
  • Median GPA: 3.24
  • Location: Saint Paul, MN

Mitchell Hamline is the home of the Dispute Resolution Institute (https://mitchellhamline.edu/dispute-resolution-institute/), which offers certificates in Advocacy and Problem Solving, Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Theory and Practice, and Global Arbitration and Practice.  The Institute also offers two study abroad programs in Israel and London.  The DRI also hosts a Mediation Center in downtown Minneapolis, encouraging students to learn about mediation while practicing mediation.  There is also a DRI Press, which prints some of the leading scholarship in alternative dispute resolution.

#6: Northwestern (tie)

  • Tuition: $68,500
  • Acceptance Rate: 22.6%
  • Median LSAT: 169
  • Median GPA: 3.85
  • Location: Chicago, IL

The majority of students at Northwestern’s law school take negotiation as a part of their curriculum through the Bluhm Legal Clinic (https://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/negotiations/) because the school encourages students to understand the importance of negotiation skills.  Northwestern also offers a negotiation competition that any student who has completed the negotiation course may compete in.  The school also offers a concentration in civil litigation and dispute resolution.  Additionally, the School of Management hosts the Dispute Resolution Research Center, allowing the law school access to some of the top research in dispute resolution.

#6: Texas A&M (tie)

  • Tuition: $32,633 (in-state) or $48,618 (out-of-state)
  • Acceptance Rate: 30.2%
  • Median LSAT: 160
  • Median GPA: 3.76
  • Location: Forth Worth, TX

Texas A&M allows students to prepare for dispute resolution practice by completing a dispute resolution concentration, through their Aggie Dispute Resolution Program (https://law.tamu.edu/prospective/academics/centers-clinics-programs/aggie-dispute-resolution-program), participating in a dispute resolution-focused Global Field Course with global dispute resolution organizations, or competing on an ADR competition team.  Texas A&M focuses on the integration of ADR with traditional legal careers and encourages students to hone their dispute resolution skills through traditional litigation.

#6: University of Nevada: Las Vegas (tie)

  • Tuition: $25,900 (in-state) or $37,800 (out-of-state)
  • Acceptance Rate: 31.3%
  • Median LSAT: 159
  • Median GPA: 3.67
  • Location: Las Vegas, NV

UNLV hosts the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution (https://law.unlv.edu/saltman-center) which focuses on the study of the nature of conflict and ADR. It allows students to participate in a Mediation Clinic, similar to the others listed above.  Additionally, the Center takes on student fellows that participate in the research and study of dispute resolution.  Students are also able to concentrate on dispute resolution through their studies.

#10: Arizona State (tie)

  • Tuition: $28,058 (in-state) or $47,302 (out-of-state)
  • Acceptance Rate: 34.2%
  • Median LSAT: 165
  • Median GPA: 3.83
  • Location: Phoenix, AZ

Arizona State University hosts the Lodestar Dispute Resolution Center (https://law.asu.edu/centers/lodestar-dispute-resolution), which seeks to “understand the nature of conflict and its impact on the effectiveness of dispute resolution.” Students can earn an MLS in Conflict Resolution or participate in the Mediation Clinic or an International Conflict Resolution Study Abroad.  ASU also offers moot court competition teams focusing on mediation and international commercial arbitration.  Students have a variety of courses offered to study ADR topics as well.

#10: Marquette (tie)

  • Tuition: $49,710
  • Acceptance Rate: 48.1%
  • Median LSAT: 154
  • Median GPA: 3.50
  • Location: Milwaukee, MN

Marquette University Law School (https://law.marquette.edu/programs-degrees/dispute-resolution) offers a variety of courses in ADR from some of the best in the business.  Students can earn a Certificate in ADR, participate in a competition, a mediation clinic, and spring break trips focused on ADR.  Marquette also offers Field Work Programs where students can work with ADR leaders during law school.

#10: Oregon (tie)

  • Tuition: $40,462 (in-state) or $50,326 (out-of-state)
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Median LSAT: 157
  • Median GPA: 3.48
  • Location: Eugene, OR

The University of Oregon School of Law is home to the Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center (https://law.uoregon.edu/academics/centers/adr) where students can learn to interact with and manage complex conflict.  Students may complete a Concentration in Conflict Resolution or a MA or MS in Conflict and Dispute Resolution.  The Center also hosts the Oregon Office for Community Dispute Resolution, which supports community dispute resolution centers around Oregon through grantmaking, training, and research.

#13-25

While this article will not dive into each of the following programs with the same depth, it still mentions the following schools and acknowledges their desire to contribute to the ADR scholarly and practical fields.

  • #13 (tie): Fordham, University of California-Hastings, University of Maryland
  • #16 (tie): New York University, University of Texas
  • #18 (tie): Quinnipiac, Stanford, University of Virginia
  • #22 (tie): Cornell, Suffolk, University of California-Irvine
  • #25 (tie): Duke, Georgetown, Temple, University of California-Davis, UCLA, Kansas, Washington University

Conclusion

Each of these twelve schools offers distinctive opportunities for students in a variety of locations and with a variety of budgets.  While many schools offer similar programs and clinics, these will change dramatically depending on where the school is located.  For example, a mediation clinic is going to look very different in an Ohio or Wisconsin court than it would in a downtown Los Angeles or New York Court.  Different schools and faculty will see the importance of different aspects of ADR practice and focus their skills training on what is important.  However, one thing that each of these schools has in common is the desire for law students to be adequately prepared to used ADR techniques whether or not they pursue a career in mediation or arbitration.  All of these schools understood the importance for lawyers to have training in negotiation, mediation, and arbitration to excel in their field.  When choosing a school, whether it be one of these listed or one not on this list, finding one that matches the style in which you learn and the area that you would like to study is crucial. And finding one in a location you would enjoy for three years is also beneficial.

All of our ADR Times editors and over 110 worldwide contributors have attended most of these programs and can discuss the pros and cons of our individual experiences firsthand, should prospective students care to learn more. Please contact us directly.

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