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Sharing Resources: ADR Academics Create a Repository of Best Teaching Practices

What kind of legal professionals labor long and hard over their intellectual property . . . and then give it away? Law professors who teach alternative dispute resolution, that’s who.

In continuing acts of generosity not characteristic of the academy at large, educators focusing on providing students with knowledge and skills in conflict resolution mechanisms apart from litigation gather yearly to share teaching ideas and innovations with their friends and  colleagues. 

This community forum, under the banner of the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution, often begins slowly, with participants feeling shy about presenting their newest simulation or in-class exercise as a practice worth emulating. But with the organizers’ encouragement, confidence grows, participants begin to shout out their contributions with growing enthusiasm, and the group takes on the call-and-response cadence of a jubilant church meeting.

ADR professors look forward to being with their colleagues, whether in the same room or virtually.  But, for those who can’t attend–the organizers say they hope to resume in-person gatherings soon–the ideas presented are dutifully captured in a document titled the Legal Educators Resource Share, which is made widely available.

The resource is a valuable tool for practicing attorneys and ADR professionals, too. It is now more than 25 pages long, with hundreds of more pages of appendices–the actual, ready-to-use, material that teachers can hand out in class, such as simulation roles, out-of-class assignments, in-class worksheets, etc.  

The resource is the brainchild of Sharon Press and Barbara “Bobbi” McAdoo of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, in Saint Paul, Minn. The decade-old effort, with support from the ABA Dispute Resolution Section, began when they convened a group at the ABA DR Section’s Annual Conference and encouraged attending professors to submit and describe teaching resources that could be shared with the teaching community.

They compiled those resources in a document and made them widely available on academic sites as well as the blogosphere. When Prof. McAdoo retired, Prof. Noam Ebner of Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., took her place as co-organizer.

The resource document is divided into several categories, all of which can be helpful to novices and veteran professors alike: list servs; conferences; teaching/training materials, videos, and more. A brief sampling of the ideas reveals the contributors’ creativity and focus on securing student engagement.

Here are examples of the materials:

  • A discussion of the use of mindfulness meditation in a Legal Negotiation Class, complete with references to articles exploring the connection between mindfulness practices and creativity, feelings of well-being and the reduction of bias.
  • Guidance offered by the International Council for Online Dispute Resolution website, including  the ICODR’s online dispute resolution training standards.
  • “A Trisolan Map: Getting to Yes Exercise,” designed to help students make the jump from understanding the integrative negotiation method in theory, to actually applying it before engaging in a negotiation scenario. The exercise is a solo activity where the student plays the role of a fictional character in a fictional world, making negotiation decisions that seem very real. (For non-sci-fi immersives: The exercise is based on a Star Wars-inspired scenario.)
  • An article titled “Designing binge-worthy courses: Pandemic pleasures and Covid-19 consequences,” which draws on “the literature examining psychological and neuroscientific aspects of binge-watching television shows” to suggest approaches “to designing courses our students will want to binge-learn.”
  • A website developed by the ABA’s Legal Education , ADR, and Practical Problems (LEAPS) Project, designed “to help faculty incorporate practical problem-solving . . . into their instruction of a wide range of courses, including doctrinal, litigation, transactional and ADR courses.”
  • The “Stone Soup” Dispute Resolution Knowledge Project, offered by University of Missouri School of Law, Columbia, Mo., Professor Emeritus John Lande , which contains resources and tools for those who want to incorporate practitioner interviews and case observations into their classroom assignments.
  • Links to a variety of videos demonstrating various mediation styles and techniques. One of the most prolific videographers is Boston-based Suffolk University Law School Prof. Dwight Golann, who has shot and edited many videos, housed at the ABA/Suffolk University Law School Dispute Resolution Video Center and made openly available to all dispute resolution professors.   
  • Role-play simulations treating diverse subjects, ranging from probate to community divisions, to college spats, to European Union policy wrangles.
  • Exercises to assist students with getting comfortable on Zoom.
  • “Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels: An Arbitration Case Study,” containing excerpts from Daniels’ suit seeking to invalidate the arbitration clause embedded in the settlement agreement she signed with the former president; the TRO issued by an arbitrator that she violated by filing suit, and excerpts from an article written by the submitter, Brian Farkas–a Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law adjunct professor and a New York-based Arentfox Schiff associate–examining the public policy issues raised by the case.   

The list is extensive.

What is particularly noteworthy is the alignment between what these educators profess in the classroom and what they actually do. As proponents of dispute prevention and management, they teach their students to be creative problem solvers, to search for mutually beneficial outcomes and to “grow the pie”–not just look for ways to self-servingly apportion it.

And this is how they approach their life’s work. Far from hoarding their intellectual capital, they spread it around, assuming that if the next generation of lawyers has the benefit of the best teaching and writing out there, then we all win.  

The current version of the Legal Educators Resource Share linked above, and recent past versions, are located at ADRhub.com, a website maintained by Creighton’s Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program. There also are plans by the organizers to have open access on the Mitchell Hamline School of Law Dispute Resolution Institute web page, which provides its DRI Press books and other teaching materials.

author

Ellen Waldman

Ellen Waldman is a law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. She mediates for the San Diego County Superior Court, and is a member of various hospital ethics committees. She writes and speaks frequently on bioethics mediation. MORE

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