Welcome Message from the Director
ADR is a powerful driver in today’s legal marketplace. More than ever before, disputing parties are turning to conflict resolution processes that are fast, economical, fair and flexible. Given this climate, it is important to acclimate students early in their legal education to both the theoretical underpinnings and practical realities of ADR. With such skills training, students develop the skills necessary to practice effectively both in the field of ADR and as lawyers more generally.
The increasing use of private and court-annexed ADR was one of the motivating forces for establishing the ADR Program at the MSU College of Law. With more than 85% of civil cases now resolved through the various types of alternative dispute resolution (PDF), the field is critically important and impacts the development of modern law. Judicial opinion is, in fact, overwhelmingly supportive of ADR. The Ethics Opinions of the State of Michigan, like most other states, even require counsel to inform clients of ADR alternatives, and, by local rule, circuit course are required to direct parties into mediation. ADR is here to stay, and as a result, students well-versed in its theory and practice are best prepared to become successful 21st century lawyers.
Since many ADR providers concentrate solely on the logistics of mediation, there has been a need for a broad-scale approach to incorporating both the academic and practical development of ADR into both professional development and legal education. More and more law students, recognizing the impact of ADR on their future profession, therefore are turning to skill-building courses in ADR. Students with knowledge of ADR not only are more capable of conducting ADR proceedings, but they are also better equipped to represent their clients in a more client-centric fashion, using their ADR skills to entirely change the outcome of a case.
The skills gained in ADR courses are many, ranging from the presentation of a case and its evidence to an arbitration panel to strategizing the best advocacy efforts possible to resolve a dispute in civil mediation to determining the best and worst alternatives to a negotiated agreement to present in a transactional negotiation. While taught in few law courses, it is these skills that best prepare students for real-life resolution of cases, both outside and inside the courtroom.
The core curriculum for MSU College of Law students includes courses that explore the entire range of ADR mechanisms, including negotiations, mediation, labor, commercial and international arbitration. As Professor of Law in Residence, my primary responsibility is to create and teach the curriculum pieces for a full-fledged ADR program. I will also continue to research and write on topics of interest to the ADR community as a whole. Students also can participate in research and writing on topics current to the ADR field, while enhancing their ADR skills through student competitions held across the nation in such subjects as negotiation, arbitration, and mediation advocacy.
Alternative Dispute Resolution was at its inception a new concept to the law that many believed would fail to take hold. Now, it is an everyday reality for lawyers, judges, and others in the legal field and one that will continue to grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years. Students with effective training in ADR concepts and practice will be better positioned to succeed within the legal profession.