Coming off a wonderful conference at Pepperdine, I wanted to put down in writing some of the stimulating conversation that we had over the course of the two days there. I imagine that there will be other posts to come! One of our sessions was about Access to Justice and how (or if) ADR could or has contributed to this. It’s a rich topic–as many speakers noted, much of ADR’s history comes from the civil rights and community justice movements in the 60’s and 70’s.
Our panel was tasked with addressing some of those questions. I will leave this to my other panelists to put their own words into print–Cynthia Alkon helpfully started by defining Access to Justice in ADR; Jean Sternlight talked about where ADR has been problematic ; and Jen Reynolds led the discussion about where ADR might be able to better support it in the future. It was a really thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation. For my own piece of the session, as I was thinking about how ADR has supported Access to Justice in the past, I used a particular framework that I want to suggest can help us analyze this in the future. We could think about Access to Justice in three ways:
- Access to Process–can parties easily access a dispute resolution forum in a cost conscious manner
- Access to Lawyers Plus–can parties access helping professionals–lawyers, but also financial counselors or special education advocates, etc–in order to support informed decision-making
- Access to Better/Fairer Outcomes–are ADR processes providing parties with the opportunity to use their voice and influence the outcome of their disputes.
I think we have lots of successes in each of these from small claims mediation clinics to embedded employment mediation services (i.e. the Postal Service) and beyond. And, as we noted, each of these examples also have a problematic side where we could or should be doing better….