Conflict Resolution

ADR Needs More Diversity

I’m a 60-year old white guy, two years into the terrifying challenge of building a solo practice as a mediator/arbitrator.  And the gist of this post is that more women and people of color need to be hired as neutrals. 

I worked hard for this goal when I was Senior Vice President of CPR Institute, and served as Staff Liaison to the CPR Task Force on Diversity in ADR.  And now, that prima blogger assoluto al mondo, Victoria Pynchon, has started a series of posts with her characteristic flair and logical power, pressing the issue.  You Go, Girl!

Would any client in their right mind hire only graduates from Stanford Law School?  Of course not!  And the reason is that there are many other very good attorneys with excellent training who come from different schools, start from different perspectives, have had different professors, and can bring different strengths to a team.

Then why do clients continually select mediators and arbitrrators who are (as I am told) “pale, male and stale”?

There are compelling business reasons to shake up the entire ADR neutral selection process; at CPR I assisted Ben Picker, Laurel Pyke Malson and others to create a “Diversity Survey” for the use of corporate clients to prod their outside counsel to deliver more diverse, more eclectic lists of proposed neutrals.  

Nor is it an area bereft of ideas for real change; in a 2006 article in National Law Journal I collected a bunch of them from the CPR Task Force and elsewhere.

A lot of businesses “get it.”  Yet the question eludes a fix.  Two years later I wrote a follow-up article, in Dispute Resolution Magazine, asking why — if the need for diversity among neutrals is so evident — the market has not responded.

It remains perplexing.  But for the good of the profession, for the effectiveness and growth of the practice, and for the kind of world I want to live in, here is (as Victoria so bluntly put it) an Old White Man Speaking — let’s have more diversity out there!!!

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