CPR – The 21st Century Corporate ADR Pledge

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 15:08

The Editor interviews Kathy Bryan, President and CEO of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR Institute).

Editor: What is the 21st Corporate ADR Century Pledge? 

Bryan: The 21st Century Corporate ADR Pledge is a systemic approach to dispute resolution. It’s the first of its kind. It is a company pledge to commit to a sustainable global approach to handling conflict management. It differs from CPR’s original ADR pledge, which was in the context of an individual action between two parties with a dispute who agreed to consider alternatives to litigation before filing suit. This is different. The 21st Century Pledge is about a company commitment to consider, as a policy matter, alternatives to any disputes involving the company.

Editor: What is the advantage to signing the 21st Century Pledge?

Bryan: It demonstrates a level of sophistication on the part of the company and an understanding that having a systemic policy approach is the best way to communicate the commitment of the company to alternative dispute resolution. It communicates this commitment to the stakeholders and shareholders internally and externally to outside counsel as well as to adversaries. So it is: one, a communications tool to convey how important the company thinks it is; and two, it is a statement that the company will take a systemic approach and that it will be looking at all the elements of conflict management systems going forward.

Editor: How is the new pledge different from the earlier pledge?

Bryan: It is broader than the CPR Corporate Policy Statement on Alternatives to Litigation launched in 1984, a two-party dispute framework. The new pledge embraces a whole suite of resources, techniques, and guidelines that are part of a toolkit that accompanies the pledge. It acknowledges that all are part of a commitment to a conflict management system, pointing to active dispute management and systems design. The 21st Century Pledge signers are committing to create conflict management systems that incorporate and adapt these elements to their needs. This toolkit provides an even greater ability to achieve efficient, sustainable dispute management and resolution processes.

Editor: Do you still have the CPR Corporate Policy Statement on Alternatives to Litigation, which you launched in 1984?

Bryan: Yes, we do. We have more than 4,000 signatories. It is still important to indicate that having discussions in the context of an individual case is not a sign of weakness. Our members and constituents still go to the website to see whether their adversaries have signed the original pledge and will continue to be able to do so.

Editor: Do I have to be a CPR member to sign the 21st Century Pledge?

Bryan: No. There is no membership requirement. We encourage CPR members as well as other companies to do so.

Editor: Do I have to sign the original Corporate Pledge in order to sign the 21st Century Pledge?

Bryan: No. One is not dependent upon the other; they are two independent approaches. If your company wishes to appear as a signatory to both, you can find both the 21st Century Pledge and the original pledge on CPR’s website at www.cpradr.org.

Editor: Can I still pursue litigation if my company signs the 21st Century Pledge?

Bryan: Yes. It is always up to you to choose the most appropriate resolution mechanism. In many cases the most appropriate resolution mechanism may be litigation and potentially a trial. We recognize that more than 98 percent of the cases are resolved before trial. The concept here is to focus more on early resolution opportunities, understanding that most cases, even when litigated, get resolved at some point in the process.

Editor: Can the parties decide in the course of litigation to resolve their differences in an ADR proceeding?

Bryan: Absolutely. Any time during litigation, the parties can seek to have a time-out to consider mediation, or to transform issues or the entire matter into arbitration and take advantage of one of the hybrid processes that are available, such as MedArb, which is mediation followed by arbitration, or early neutral evaluation. There are outstanding neutral mechanisms available. There are a lot of different options that are open to companies to resolve their disputes in new and creative ways focused on the interests of the adversarial companies.

Editor: What are the CPR member benefits for a company signing the pledge?

Bryan: CPR provides resources to the signatories and to our members that provide education, training, clause drafting, best practices and programs to implement a highly effective dispute resolution process in a corporate law department. For example, an early-case assessment toolkit is provided to our members. The cost to a company of replicating CPR’s tools would be many times over the cost of CPR membership. A full CPR pledge toolkit is provided only to members.

Editor: What is the cost of CPR membership?

Bryan: CPR memberships vary depending on the size of the company, ranging from $2,000 for a small company to $10,000 per year for a global company. There are many membership benefits including involvement with committees, newsletters, discounts, events, training opportunities, continuing legal education and the like, so we provide a whole suite of resources and activities to our membership and the members’ entire organization. The annual fee covers the entire organization.

Editor: Whom should our readers call if they’re interested in joining CPR?

Bryan: Our membership director is Terri Bartlett at 646-753-8225. I would also welcome anyone who is interested to call me at 646-753-8248.