National Task Force On Diversity In ADR

Friday, December 1, 2006 - 00:00

The face of the legal profession has changed greatly over the course of the last two decades: women and minorities are entering the field in ever-increasing numbers, and they are making their presence known in leadership positions more than ever before. Diversity in the ADR profession, however, lags far behind. This is bad news not only for the obvious reason - that we have a societal obligation to correct injustices done to individuals historically discriminated against - but also because it's not good for ADR. As Charles Morgan, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for OnSite E-Discovery commented, 'No one in their right mind would purposely choose to hire lawyers from only one law school, or having only one background or one perspective.'

To that end, the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR Institute) called together the National Task Force on Diversity in ADR. On November 7, the task force met to share their work in the field.

Jennifer Jester Coffman of American Arbitration Association reported on the AAA's diversity efforts. She discussed the 2003 AAA 'Shared Commitment to Diversity' statement, concentrating on diversity in its work force, its Board, and its neutrals. Ms. Coffman noted the advances made in many of these areas (such as AAA staff diversity and training, and neutrals composition). Crystal Gothard of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association reported on the group's activities in the advocacy, retention and promotion of women and minorities in corporate law departments and law firms through conferences, smaller dinner meetings, publications, and research. Marvin Johnson reported on JAMS' support of his and Marvin LaRue's work to encourage women and minorities in ADR through the initiative Access ADR, an effort to make those persons who select neutrals more aware of skilled neutrals existing outside the narrow pools from which they usually draw.

Stradley Ronon Partner Bennett Picker said the Task Force is an opportunity to meld the profession's need for increased jobs with the corporate need for more diversity in its outsourced professionals. He suggested an audit to put more concrete expectations on legal suppliers. Promulgated by corporate clients, the audit would first probe their law firms' commitment to ADR (the frequency of negotiation training, the regularity of recommending mediation). Law firms would then be asked how many women and minorities were in the firm, how many were assigned to second-seat negotiations, arbitrations and mediations, and so on. The strategy would be to gather data but also convey a clear message: we, the client, expect you to develop sophistication in ADR, and to ensure that women and minorities are included in that development.