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The Mediate.com + AAA Partnership

I’ve had an exciting couple of weeks since we shared the news of the acquisition at the end of May. I’ve flown from NY to Boston to Prague, back to Boston, then to DC and LA, spreading the word and doing interviews and podcasts. But now it’s good to be back home, focused and energized from it all. 

It has been overwhelming to receive celebratory messages from friends in every corner of the globe, and to hear first-hand that the wider ODR/Mediation field is as excited as we are about this new partnership. Software companies can go years when the only people who know the hard work your team is doing are the customers using the product. But when an event like this happens, suddenly there’s a rush of attention and appreciation.

It’s wonderful that the hard work that the Mediate.com and ODR.com teams put in day in and day out has now been recognized.  And it’s even better that the global mediation community has been so supportive. Mediators are so great – we even got gracious congratulatory messages from our competitors! That’s one of the reasons why I love working in conflict resolution (I’m betting that doesn’t usually happen when sports betting companies get acquired).

Over the course of my travels, I’ve heard a few recurring questions about our new partnership, and I thought it’d make sense to respond to them in an article so everyone can be in the loop.

Why did we make this move?

It’s now common knowledge that technology is opening the door to a new wave of innovation in dispute resolution and access to justice. These changes are coming fast and furious, first in response to the pandemic (e.g., the rise of online mediation) and now with the proliferation of AI. 

Mediate.com has been on the cutting edge of this tech+ADR innovation for almost three decades, but it was clear we needed more resources and data to stay a leader in the midst of all this change. Partnering with AAA, the largest dispute resolution provider in the world, positions us perfectly as we dive head first into the era of algorithmic justice. AAA’s nearly 100 years of experience (and unparalleled data set containing millions of cases) will enable us to keep innovating for our users in this new era.

This is the first strategic acquisition AAA/ICDR has made (you may remember AAA acquired an ADR news service called ADR World back in 2001, but that acquisition didn’t impact AAA’s core strategy). The vision that led to this acquisition came directly from AAA’s new CEO, Bridget McCormack. If you don’t know about Bridget, I urge you to read about her – before taking the role at AAA, she was Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, as well as trial counsel for a Legal Aid organization and a law professor at Michigan Law School, where she founded the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

Bridget is making big moves in orienting AAA/ICDR toward the future, expanding its focus to full-spectrum ADR (including mediation and ODR) and delivering value for new case types AAA hasn’t traditionally addressed (e.g. family, ecommerce, ombuds, landlord-tenant). Growing out of her professional path, Bridget is passionate about expanding access to justice, and she has seen first-hand the challenges self-represented litigants experience when they navigate the judicial system.

Bridget is also laser focused on embracing technology in ADR. She is an avid user of AI and is fully up to speed on the newest tools transforming law and arbitration. Under her guidance, AAA/ICDR will lead the charge into the next century of ADR. It’s not easy to pivot a 100 year old nonprofit that has successfully resolved millions of disputes, but Bridget (and the crack team she has pulled together) are making it happen.

This is the context for AAA/ICDR’s acquisition of Mediate and ODR.com. Bridget’s vision is inspiring, and wholly in line with RIS/ODR’s mission. But it’s not just Bridget: Everyone at AAA/ICDR has been incredibly supportive throughout this process, and they are aligned in their enthusiasm for this ambitious strategy. They made the acquisition (never an easy process) flow smoothly, and they have welcomed the RIS/ODR team as collaborators in turning Bridget’s plan into reality. AAA/ICDR and RIS/ODR share a passion for ethical, accessible, impartial dispute resolution for all, and, in the end, that shared passion made the decision to merge an easy one.

What is the relationship between Mediate.com and AAA/ICDR?

RIS/ODR.com (RIS is “Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc., founded by John Helie and Jim Melamed, which has run Mediate.com for nearly 30 years) is now operating as a for-profit subsidiary of AAA/ICDR. Our team will be independent from AAA, so we can continue to pursue our strategic goals while exploring opportunities to partner in particular areas of mutual interest. I will remain President and CEO of RIS/ODR, our long-time team members will remain in their roles, and Mediate.com’s mission of supporting the mediation field in all of its incarnations remains unchanged.

AAA/ICDR’s team will remain separate from ODR.com, so all our customer configurations, documents, case data, and panelist information will continue to be confidential and secure. AAA has been extremely supportive in ensuring that ODR.com and Mediate.com will have operational independence, so we can continue to support our users and grow in our target market segments. Of course, we remain open to collaborating with AAA/ICDR on areas of joint interest, and we are already planning to work together on some transformative initiatives in the coming years, but it is important to maintain a clear line of demarcation between the nonprofit parent and the for-profit subsidiary, especially as ODR.com works to support new partners and customers around the world.

What does this mean for me?

In the near term, nothing will change at ODR.com and the RIS family of websites (Mediate.com, Arbitrate.com, Ombuds.org, MediateUniversity.com, etc.) – the ODR/RIS team is still pushing hard to support our community of users and make our platforms better every day. All of the team members you know and have worked with are still here, pushing all our action items forward. Please reach out to us in the ways you always have and we’ll be here for you.

But over time we hope to bring on new team members, expand and develop our services, and continuously improve our software platforms. We are actively exploring how AI can be ethically integrated into the work we do. We are building new tools that can leverage these capabilities, and we will share these tools with all of you as we test and deploy them.

We are confident that this partnership with AAA/ICDR will deliver more opportunities for our customers and directory members, expand the reach and public awareness of the mediation field, and advance the practice of dispute resolution. This merger will enable us to powerfully assist you in expanding your practice in new directions, getting you cases and putting new tools in your tool box..

We take our responsibilities as the #1 mediation website on the internet very seriously. For instance, Mediate.com is not only an active community of practitioners, it is now the richest archive of the work the ADR field has done over its entire history – and that archive needs to be preserved and shared with future practitioners. We have built this online community together for more than a quarter century, and we are confident this move will help us continue to do so for the next 25 years.

Our team is inspired and energized for this next chapter, but we can’t do it without you. Please reach out to me at [email protected] if you would like to get involved, learn more about our plans, or collaborate on developing new caseloads or exploring new vertical markets. The only way for us to invent the future of ADR is to work together. So let’s get to it.

author

Colin Rule

Colin Rule is CEO of Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc. ("RIS"), home of Mediate.com, MediateUniversity.com, Arbitrate.com, CaseloadManager.com and a number of additional leading online dispute resolution initiatives.  From 2017 to 2020, Colin was Vice President for Online Dispute Resolution at Tyler Technologies. Tyler acquired Modria.com, an ODR provider that Colin co-founded,… MORE

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