TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Christy Gibson on Jul 5, 2012

ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference Report

By Marnie Huff

The 14th Annual Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference in Washington D.C. had over 900 ADR advocates, arbitrators, mediators and dispute resolvers attending educational programs and Section business meetings.  I saw several Tennessee ADR friends there – Mark Travis, Howard Vogel, Marietta Shipley, Larry Bridgesmith, and John Blankenship.

The Conference began with the court ADR symposium, a full day event attended by 120 court administrators, researchers, judges, and neutrals. Needless to say, in this era of slashed court budgets, public access to justice is a key issue.  The symposium focused on new court ADR programs involving criminal law and prisoner rights, including “community conferencing,” a practice started with the Maori people in New Zealand and also used with juveniles in Australia, Canada, and more recently in Maryland.

The main Spring Conference had over 80 programs, with topics ranging from neuroscience, how to arbitrate better, mediating with difficult people, and women in ADR.  Poster presentations were new this year, including one I presented on impasse.  Other sessions explored novel approaches, such as using Skype to mediate.  Since civility in public discourse/collaborative governance is one of the Section’s themes this year, there was a Town Hall meeting facilitated by AmericaSpeaks to demonstrate constructive discussion of a volatile topic.

In the first plenary session, Israeli crisis negotiator Moty Cristal addressed negotiation in low to no trust situations.  At the second plenary, Cobe Williams, a member of the Interrupters in Chicago, explained how he mediated situations in the inner city, using video clips from the movie The Interrupters which has aired on Public TV.  On Saturday, the schedule included two all day programs - the Legal Educators Colloquium and the International ADR Workshop.

Members of the International Academy of Mediators (IAM) and the College of Commercial Arbitrators were part of the Section’s panels and conducted their own business meetings, scheduled to dovetail with the Spring Conference.  Last but not least, congratulations to Knoxville mediator Howard Vogel for his leadership as President of the IAM this past year!


Newsworthy Events

Two University of Memphis Law School Advocacy In Mediation teams (yes, that’s right – Advocacy In Mediation) recently competed in the ABA Regional Competition in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The team of Christopher Martin and Thomas Williams placed first in the competition while the team of Caroline Giovannetti and Ryan Hagenbrok placed fourth among the twelve teams.  Martin and Thomas advanced to the National Finals which was won by the University of Phoenix.  The competition is meant to transform the practice of mediation.  As the coach of these students, I informed them that I do not know whether they will change the practice of mediation or if the practice of mediation will change them.  I suppose for the time being both will occur.  However, there is a shift occurring toward a “new lawyer” – one that takes a problem-solving approach to disputes.