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Conversation with Heather Kulp About ADR Careers


Previous conversation here.

Awake readers will recall that Michael posted a series of posts by  Heather Kulp about giving advice to students about developing ADR careers and that I wrote a response to Heather to start a conversation.  (The links to Heather’s original posts are in my response.)  Back from winter break, here’s Heather’s response.


It’s an honor to be having this conversation with you.  As someone who has made smooth many previously untrod paths in this field, you are one of the reasons we can have this conversation on advising our students about ADR careers.  So, thank you.

Now, on to your points.

I think we actually agree more than may be apparent.

I, too, “worry that some people will get false hope and be disillusioned if and when they fail to get ADR jobs right out of law school.”  I think that’s why I want to identify any ways our field iscontributing to students’ disillusionment—either disillusionment that they will be able to secure a job or disillusionment that there are no jobs for them.

In the series, I choose to focus on the latter.  While I can imagine the former occurring, I’ve never heard anyone say, and none of my students report hearing, that ADR jobs are “common” or that it is easy to secure one.  To me, the primary barrier to excellent young professionals joining our field is not that they apply for jobs and are not hired for them (though this occurs), but that well-meaning folks (we?) give them incomplete or incorrect information about ADR careers that prompts them to give up ADR as a career path altogether.

I certainly don’t want anyone to be unnecessarily discouraged, so I want to make sure we identify ways the field might be contributing to that unnecessary discouragement.  The promulgation of half-truths was one contribution I thought we might explore.

You are absolutely right:  it is not easy to secure a job in ADR directly after law school.  I don’t want any student to be ignorant of that fact.  Yet, if we discouraged our students from pursuing hard things just because they might not succeed right away, I believe we’d be doing a disservice to them and to our field.

So, it seems to me we have some choices: 1) we can discourage students from entering the field right out of law school (or remain neutral about ADR as a career path), leaving most interested students to abandon ADR and a few students to apply without much guidance;  2) we can actively discuss with them the benefits and challenges of the field before they apply;  or 3) we can actively discuss benefits/challenges AND coach them in how they can increase their chances of securing those jobs.  John, it’s my impression from your deep engagement with your former students that #3 is the choice you made.  I attempt to model my teaching and student advising after your, Alyson Carrel’s, Bob Bordone’s, and others’ choice of #3.

Let me be clear here:  we cannot guarantee our students will get a job in this field.  We are not being responsible educators if we do not share with them the risks this path may present.  Yet, if they apply for these jobs despite our warnings and without our coaching—remember, they’re good at web searches! —they are more likely to be discouraged. I’m not sure that’s what we want.  Thus, I posit we also are not being fully responsible educators if we do not coach them in how they can improve their chances.

How can they improve their chances?  Certainly, they can take our courses.  Yes, networking will help. But this is (most often) not enough.  We need to be willing to give them feedback (three types in balance: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation) on their skills, help them practice in a variety of contexts (including representing clients—I’m with you on this one, John), and think through with them how they might add value in a specific industry (whether in a posted position or in a job they might create).  If, after they’ve tested out a variety of skill sets and incorporated our feedback, we do not find them ready to enter the ADR job market, I think it is our ethical obligation as ADR educators to let them know, and to let them know what they might do differently to improve their future chances.

One final reflection (and then I encourage your, and others’, response):  it is not fair to us, as educators, that we have to take a more active role in cultivating incoming ADR professionals than, say, a Contracts professor does for her field.  Yet, if we didn’t like innovative, challenging work, we might not be doing what we’re doing, right?


Heather Scheiwe Kulp

Heather Scheiwe Kulp is a lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and a Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program. Prior to joining Harvard Law, Heather was a Skadden Fellow at Resolution Systems Institute/Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago. While there, she designed court- and government-based conflict… MORE >


John Lande

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and former director of its LLM Program in Dispute Resolution.  He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He began mediating professionally in 1982 in California.… MORE >

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