Conversation with Heather Kulp About ADR Careers – Part 3

Last week, I posted Heather’s latest contribution to our conversation about ADR Careers.  Here’s my response.

Thanks for all your kind words, Heather.  You give me way too much credit.  But why argue?

Indeed, let me summarize some of the things I think we agree about.  First, we both want to help law students make good decisions to develop careers they would find fulfilling and that would make positive social contributions.  We want students to have realistic expectations and not get unduly discouraged because of unrealistic expectations.  In particular, it is important that students be realistic about their first jobs after graduation and consider how their careers may develop over a series of jobs.  Faculty can help students by providing good information and appropriate support and coaching (though there may be differences about what is “appropriate” or not).  Does that characterize your views accurately?

To move forward in our conversation, I think it will help to define what we mean by “ADR careers.”  Often, people think of this narrowly – solely in terms of being in private practice as a mediator and/or arbitrator in legal cases.  Some of these practitioners also do teaching, training, and consulting.  Broadening the focus, many would include administrative roles for public and private DR providers, professional associations, courts, and government agencies. Some people use their DR knowledge and skills in jobs that don’t have titles defining their roles explicitly and exclusively as “DR jobs.”  People working in human resource departments and many other organizational roles fit this category.  In-house counsel for businesses and other organizations can help design and operate dispute resolution systems.  One of my former LL.M. students was hired as executive director of a non-profit organization in large part because of her DR skills.  The jobs described in this paragraph generally are not specifically adversarial and I suspect that many people in our field would consider them as “ADR jobs.”

What about acting as a lawyer representing parties?  This may be more controversial in our field, but you and I (and Joe Markowitz) agree that this should be included as well.

What about being a judge?  Although judges are formally neutral, they adjudicate issues and thus may seem out of our field (except for the fact that arbitrators adjudicate as well).  In fact, many “trial court” judges conduct settlement conferences, manage pretrial litigation, and/or encourage ADR through court-connected ADR programs.  Some judges preside over problem-solving courts.  Some of my former students are judges and I assume that their DR education has helped them in those positions.

I wrote a post about a year ago entitled, What is (A)DR About?, in which I struggled to figure out what ADR means these days.  I revisited that question in a later post in which I suggested that perhaps our field should be conceived as efforts to improve the functioning of dispute systems.

So, Heather, how would you define “ADR” for the purpose of advising students about ADR careers?  Perhaps more to the point, what is not ADR?  How do your conceptions affect your ideas about helping students develop “ADR careers”?

Click here to see how Heather responded.

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