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What Does Rowing Across the Pacific Have to do with Dispute Resolution?

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the news, on Monday, July 25, a four-woman rowing team arrived in Hawaii, 34 days after leaving San Francisco, setting a new record.  As someone who gets motion sick looking at boats, it is hard to imagine spending over a month rowing across the Pacific Ocean in a small boat.  The women were alone, except for satellite communications. And, none of them had rowed in the deep ocean before.

What does this have to do with dispute resolution? Their training and preparation process included, as you would expect, tough physical conditioning and skills needed to survive in this tough environment. They also learned how to best communicate with each other including deciding how each woman would ask for support and give it to the others. 

The physical feat of these women is impressive. But even more impressive is the clear friendship these women developed and strengthened despite (or maybe because) of the challenges.  All too often in legal work, in legal hiring (including legal academic hiring), the importance of building and maintaining good relationships is not a part of the process.  It is not valued, much less built into what we do.  With the exception of dispute resolution courses and clinics, law schools often ignore the importance of communication skills and interpersonal relationships.

I admire that from the beginning these women, and the team helping in their training, understood the importance of learning how to work together by focusing on their communication and interpersonal relationships and not exclusively on their physical skills and endurance.

I also love that this is a positive story at a time when I know I could use it.  If you want to read more about their journey, see this LA Times Article.  If you want to follow them on Facebook and watch some of the upbeat videos they posted during the journey, here is the link.


Cynthia Alkon

Cynthia Alkon joined the faculty at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in 2010. She was an assistant professor of law at the Appalachian School of Law from 2006-2010. Prior to joining academia, Professor Alkon was a criminal defense lawyer and worked in rule of law development in Eastern Europe and Central… MORE

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