An article in the most recent ABA Journal entitled “Where the Work Is” (here) listed ADR as one of the subfields of law where there are likely to be jobs during the current economic downturn. The article states that legal services consumers are seeking to avoid litigation costs and concludes that has been a boon to ADR practitioners. Supporting this conclusion, the article cites to a rise in filings with the American Arbitration Association.
I do not doubt the AAA’s data, but I do doubt the author’s conclusion from the data. I would love to refer people to ADR jobs, but the job listings do not appear to be any higher than before the current downturn. And the practitioners I know have not said anything about an uptick in business. Furthermore, ADR is still a very difficult field in which to gain a footing. For example, it’s not that easy to become one of the neutrals on the AAA’s roster. In fact, conversations with professionals here in Phoenix lead me to believe that those at the top of the field are still busy, but everyone else is experiencing a downturn.
While I wouldn’t go so far as saying that puff pieces like the one in the ABA Journal are a disservice to the profession, they do fail to give an accurate picture of the business side of the ADR profession, not to mention the difficulties of breaking into the field.