ADR as a First Career – New Video Blog

This announcement comes from Alyson Carrel (Northwestern) in the wake of this summer’s discussion about the Next Generation of ADR scholars on the list serv.

There has been a lot of discussion on DR list serves about the next generation of ADR professionals, practitioners and academics.  For recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in ADR, the advice they often receive is to first practice law or gain experience in another field before transitioning to ADR as a 2nd (or even 3rd) career.  I assume this advice stems from the personal experience of those giving it – as this was the career path of ADR’s founding generation.  But is this necessarily the narrative for our next generation?  I have a feeling that narrative is changing and decided to explore this idea by creating a new video blog (

At the 2013 ABA-DR annual conference, I participated in a panel discussion organized by Donna Erez-Navot from University of Wisconsin, Tracey Frisch from AAA, and Heather Kulp from Harvard Law called “ADR: The Next Generation”.  The panel focused on how to successfully start your professional career in the ADR field.  The four of us all ignored the advice to pursue a career in something else before transitioning to ADR.  Instead, we forged our own career paths, creating a path to ADR as first career where one did not previously exist.  We thought by telling our stories, we might illuminate a new path for others similarly interested in starting out their professional careers in the ADR field.  As we prepared our talk, we began to realize our stories were somewhat similar and I began to wonder if each of our paths was so unique after all.   Then in reflecting on my many colleagues who started their careers in ADR right out of college, graduate school, or law school, I felt certain our paths were no longer as unique as I thought.  So why is the narrative still defining ADR as a 2nd (or 3rd) career?  I am hoping this video blog will help us shift that narrative and more accurately describe what it means to pursue a career in ADR and what is (and what is not) possible.

The fear in telling students and recent grads to pursue a career in ADR is that those jobs simply don’t exist and as their professors, trainers, and mentors, we are doing them a disservice by setting them up for disappointment.  But is that in fact the case?   My guess is that this blog will in fact highlight a large number of individuals who successfully pursued ADR as their first career who are happy and lead rich professional lives.   I don’t think these individuals are necessarily making a living as full time private mediators, but instead are working as administrators, government or court employees, clinicians, and trainers.  Is there anything wrong with that?  As we prepared our panel discussion, we received the feedback that we should really focus on tips for becoming full-time private mediators and to stay away from careers in government agencies, clinical teaching positions, or work at non-profit/community mediation centers.  Why do we down play administrative positions or government mediation jobs?  Is this similar to the distinction made in law school between big law and public interest?  And if so, is this the real disservice?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to this question, but I hope the video blog will help shed light on this issue and I am hopeful that the career paths they describe, while unique to our mentors and the first generation of ADR practitioners and academics, is not so unique in and of itself.  Their stories will show that there are others who have successfully forged a career path in ADR as their first career.  In fact, it may be a path more clearly marked and defined than we originally thought.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog and want to encourage individuals to share their story.  Please visit and share your story and encourage others to share theirs.

Alyson Carrel

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