The Future is Calling. Don’t Hang It Up Yet!

This post is by Rebekah Gordon, Northwestern School of Law, Class of 2020, with her reflections on the Past-and-Future conference.

I will never forget my first experience in my mediation course.  It all clicked for me.  I found a class that allowed me to stretch my communication muscles in a legal context that wasn’t moot court or journal.  My tendencies to hear what people are really saying under their phrasings came alive.  My ability to read between the lines and amplify the interests of parties who can’t find the words was under the spotlight.  I found the lane I was created for.  And one class turned into two.  Then, two classes turned into becoming a certified mediator in the Illinois court system.  And certification afforded me the opportunity to help real people with real issues all before I cross the graduation stage.  What an honor!  What a privilege to serve.  I do not take these experiences lightly.

On my quest to figure out how I can continue to use my ADR skills in my future legal career, my train of thought led me to think about maybe teaching, or developing technology to help disadvantaged non-represented parties, or figuring out more ways to teach students about implicit bias in negotiation and mediation contexts.  The ADR world opened up to me — and led me to Malibu.  I was in rooms with the people who wrote my textbooks and produced the numerous studies I referenced in class.  I was sitting next to people who crafted the surveys I took during the school year.  I drank coffee with people who defined what I stand on now.  And although I heard some positive buzz in the air about the future of the field, it was a little disheartening to hear that some were afraid the field was plateauing.  Despair and apprehension were the words that were used.

I immediately felt a responsibility to sound the alarm.  I wanted to scream at the top of the lungs in that very moment and say — HEY, I’M OVER HERE! THE FUTURE IS IN YOUR MIDST!  The future was in the room.  And not just me, a law student who loves ADR and all it has to offer.  The future as it relates to technology was in the room.  The future as it relates to innovative programming and outreach was in the room.  The future as it relates to impacting the justice system was in the room.  I heard so much of the future in two days that it lets my mind swirling with ideas, projects, and a long I-Need-To-Look-This-Up list.

I say all of this to say to you:  First, thank you for all for welcoming me in your world.  And two, have hope.  I firmly believe ADR is the future.  As long as there are people, there will always be a need for an arbitrator, a negotiator or a mediator.  The work you all have done and are doing is building the groundwork for even my own successors to run the race.  So, pass the baton.  The marathon isn’t over.  I see no finish line in sight.  ADR is here to stay in whatever and whichever manner it takes.

4 thoughts on “The Future is Calling. Don’t Hang It Up Yet!”

  1. As a law student, my school also offers various classes related to the topic of ADR. After participating in an internship program that entailed mediating small claims, ADR became something I wanted to learn more about. I took classes related to negotiation, and am currently enrolled in a class dedicated to learning about all forms of ADR.

    I would agree with this post in the sense that I believe ADR is the future, and I don’t believe it is going anywhere anytime soon. With the various forms possibly being a more efficient, cost effective way of resolving disputes over litigation, there is no reason for parties to not take advantage of what ADR has to offer.

  2. I am currently in my first ADR class and it has been somewhat of a wakeup call to me. Understanding that litigation occurs in somewhere around 4% of all disputes, I figured learning more about alternative methods would serve me best in my future legal career. In the fast-moving and ever-growing society we live in today, it is only natural that the amount of disputes will continue to grow and with that so will the prevalence of the alternative methods to resolving these disputes.
    I think this post touches on something that is prevalent in not only ADR but in the legal world as a whole, and that is the inability to see the future as it arrives. The legal world is centered around the idea of stare decisis and following precedent, and I think these ideas may have flowed into the ADR field as well. Because we all practice within a society that is set on following the decisions of the past and extrapolating them to include the ever-changing world we live in today, I think that it can sometimes be hard for people to see the new innovators and to pass that baton. I agree with your statement that you wanted to jump up and say the future is here, I think that we need to do that more, I think that the young lawyers today need to take that step to demonstrate that we are here and we want to work with those experienced lawyers to develop the processes they came up with to make them better and to make them more applicable to society today and society tomorrow.

  3. I enrolled in my first ADR class fully not knowing what to expect. I knew it was a popular course, but I figured that had something with it satisfying a graduation requirement at my school. However, after nearing the end of the course, the way I think about law and lawyering has completely changed. ADR has essentially experienced uninterrupted growth, and that is not going to stop anytime soon–in fact, I anticipate its use to continue to grow and expand to even more wide-spread use. There are clear benefits to the various types of alternative dispute methods out there, cost and accessibility being two of the most important. I agree that it is important for young lawyers to be trained in ADR courses because we are likely to experience it in practice. Additionally, I think by being exposed to ADR, we have a duty to spread the word to those who lack access to justice. There is room for creativity and to expand what we already know about ADR and I am excited to bring this knowledge forth with me upon graduating.

  4. I remember when the time came for me to pick my classes for 2L fall semester, this would be the first time I would be picking out my own classes based on what interest me and what I saw myself doing in the near future. Naturally, like many other 1L student’s ADR wasn’t something I even recognized was an option. While doing my research I came across the ADR course being offered, read the description and automatically knew it was something I could see myself doing in the future. Here I am, almost done with my first ADR course and 100% sure that it will not be my last. As ADR keeps growing and evolving, I hope to be a part of it and its positive impact to the legal world. This post has me excited to see what ADR will bring to the future!

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