Shaping ADR’s Future: Views from the Mid-Atlantic Global Pound Conference

The Honorable Rosemarie Annunziata discusses the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Global Pound Conference in Baltimore for the Virginia Bar Association’s Spring 2018 edition of the Joint Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee Newsletter.

Described as a “modern conversation about what can be done to improve access to justice and ADR around the world in commercial and civil conflicts,” the Global Pound Conference (GPC) Series, “Shaping the Future of Dispute Resolution and Improving Access to Justice,” was inaugurated in Singapore in March 2016 by the International Mediation Institute (IMI), a nonprofit mediator accreditation organization based in The Hague, Netherlands. Over the next 16 months, the IMI convened commercial dispute resolution stakeholders at conferences worldwide, ending in London in July 2017. Judges, arbitrators, mediators, external lawyers, corporate counsel, academics, and policy makers provided their perspectives on ADR’s future.

The Mid-Atlantic Conference convened in Baltimore in June 2017, where I had the good fortune to attend as a panelist, joining about 100 attendees from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. As with all Series Conferences, a panel of dispute resolution professionals presented on these four topics:

  • Access to Justice & Dispute Resolution Systems: What do Parties/Users Need & Expect?
  • How is the Market Currently Addressing these Party/User Needs and Expectations?
  • How can Dispute Resolution be Improved (Overcoming Obstacles and Challenges)?
  • Promoting Better Access to Justice: What Actions Should be Considered and by Whom?

After the presentations, stakeholders responded electronically to multiple-choice questions asked at all Conferences.

Several indicators of possible future practices emerge from a review of the Mid-Atlantic conference data. Two of particular interest to this practitioner are: 1) the important, primary role held by inhouse counsel and external attorneys in educating the parties about available ADR options and 2) the use and continuing development of a coordinated approach in the resolution of disputes.

Regarding the role of counsel in ADR, the data show that parties view insufficient knowledge of the available and suitable dispute resolution options as one of the main obstacles they face. Significantly, lawyers are viewed as primarily responsible for making sure clients understand those options and possible consequences. Counsel’s familiarity with the processes and the advice they give are among the most important factors in choosing the dispute resolution process to use.

Regarding which practices would improve the future of commercial dispute resolution, Mid-Atlantic data identify non-adjudicative dispute resolution methods as the most likely to have such a beneficial effect. Those methods include mediation or conciliation; encouragement by courts, tribunals or other providers to reduce time and/ or costs; pre-dispute or pre-escalation processes to prevent disputes; and combining adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes, such as combining arbitration/litigation with mediation/conciliation). Similarly, to the extent dispute resolution policies, rules and/or protocols are viewed as instrumental in leading to “better access to justice,” Conference attendees concluded that “policy makers, governments and administrators” should focus attention on “promoting non-adjudicative processes,” “pre-dispute or early stage case evaluation or assessment systems using third party advisors who will not be involved in subsequent proceedings” and “making non-adjudicative processes (mediation or conciliation) compulsory and/or a process parties can ‘opt-out’ of before adjudicative processes can be initiated.”

The preferences evidenced in the Mid-Atlantic data on the role of counsel and a coordinated approach to dispute resolution were also identified as significant by Jeremy Lack, a member of the IMI and Global Coordinator for the GPC Series. Lack discerned these emerging trends from the preliminary data gleaned from the Series’ 2016 conferences:

  1. The greater need for emphasis on greater speed, efficiency and cost reduction in dispute resolution processes,
  2. The growing need to ensure Parties are properly advised, early on, about their procedural options and whether or not they wish to abdicate control of all or part of their disputes to Providers,
  3. The growing interest in pre-dispute /preescalation measures and increasing lawyers’ and Parties’ familiarity with non-adjudicative processes, and
  4. A growing interest in mixed modes of adjudicative and non-adjudicative dispute resolution, which may require a new range of skills and strategic Advisors.

How to integrate these and other GPC Series findings into the dispute resolution practice in Virginia and how to develop a “new range of skills and strategic Advisors” will necessarily begin with discussion and discernment, proposals and planning, and, finally, if accepted, implementation by individual stakeholders in light of the perceived need for change.

Let the conversation begin!

Read the full article here.

Written by Rosemarie Annunziata.

Rosemarie Annunziata, JAMS mediator and arbitrator

Rosemarie Annunziata is a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS, after more than 35 years of distinguished service from the trial and appellate bench as well as the private practice of law as a civil law litigator. As a JAMS neutral, she serves throughout the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland, in complex commercial, business, and employment matters, as well as in consumer-related, divorce, and health care industry matters. She is a former Chair of the Joint ADR Committee and was named in the Washingtonian 2017 list of top lawyers-mediators.

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