How Litigants View the ADR Options in Courts

By Alice Albl

At the Sept. 17 online CPR Institute Mediation Committee meeting, University of California, Davis, School of Law School Prof. Donna Shestowsky presented her research about the role courts play in encouraging alternative dispute resolution over a trial.

The study revealed that litigants seem to be unaware of ADR options when going to court, although knowing about some of these options—specifically, mediation–improve litigants’ opinions of the court itself.

This lack of awareness stayed relatively consistent among demographics, even among those with legal representation.  

“Repeat player” litigants were less likely than first timers to report uncertainty or confusion whether ADR options were available.

Shestowsky’s research observed the experiences of more than 350 litigants spread among the court systems of three different states.

The first system, in California, allowed litigants to choose between a trial, or opting into mediation or arbitration.

The second system, in Utah, assigned mediation as the default option but allowed litigants to convert their cases into an arbitration or trial.

The third system, in Oregon, statutorily required nonbinding arbitration for cases involving amounts in controversy less than $50,000. Litigants could opt-out by filing a “Motion for Exemption from Arbitration,” or by agreeing with their opposition to enter mediation.

All three court systems posted information online about available ADR programs and kept a list of approved neutrals on file. None required attorneys to educate their clients about the available ADR options.

Litigants in the study took a survey before and after their journey through the courts. The questions sought to gauge litigants’ awareness about relevant court-sponsored ADR programs, whether legal representation affected their awareness, and how awareness of court-sponsored ADR affected litigants’ opinions of the court offering the options.

The data Shestowsky reaped from these surveys revealed some unexpected findings. While roughly half of the litigants were unsure whether mediation and arbitration were available to them, another 20% wrongly stated these options were unavailable.

Without knowledge of the court systems’ sponsorship for mediation or arbitration, litigants most often considered negotiation as a means for dispute resolution, even before the prospect of a trial.  

While about a third of litigants considered mediation, knowing that the method was a court-sponsored option generally improved their opinion of the sponsoring court system.

Arbitration was only considered by about one quarter of the litigants, and knowledge of court sponsorship did little to affect litigants’ opinions of sponsoring courts. Shestowsky attributed this to the possibility that litigants had low opinions of arbitration as an option for their court-filed cases, which aligned with findings from her past research.

Having a lawyer did not make litigants more aware of ADR options, even when those options were offered, or even mandated, by the court system.

Shestowsky pointed out this universally low awareness rate of ADR options as an issue to address among courts, especially given how awareness seemed to improve court favorability.

One possible solution would be rules that require attorneys to properly educate clients about ADR options before engaging the courts, which could be enforced using penalty fees or an affidavit.

Shestowsky also suggested that courts implement “direct education.” This could involve bolstered advertisement of ADR options, a dedicated ADR helpdesk, and periodic information sessions. The professor, who serves as UC Davis School of Law’s Director of the Lawyering Skills Education Program, even envisioned an artificial intelligence-powered digital aide that could recommend options based on litigants’ specific needs.

While Shestowsky cautioned that her research focusing on three court systems may not perfectly reflect the general state of ADR awareness, the consistency of data among the diverse systems could point to a greater trend. To gauge this, the professor recommended that courts across the nation buck the trend of measuring success for ADR programs by their usage rates, and first look to their awareness rates by surveying those who do not use their ADR programs.

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Donna Shestowsky previously discussed her research at “New Research Sheds Light on How Litigants Evaluate the Characteristics of Legal Procedures,” 34 Alternatives 145 (November 2016) (available at https://bit.ly/2ScA71w), which adapted and updated material from Donna Shestowsky, “How Litigants Evaluate the Characteristics of Legal Procedures: A Multi-Court Empirical Study,” 49 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 3 (2016) (available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2729893).

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The author, a CPR Institute Fall 2020 intern, is a second-year student at Brooklyn Law School in New York.

It’s About the Brain: Jeremy Lack on the Neuroscience of Dispute Resolution

By Alice Albl

“You hear in movies ‘follow the money’; in my world I try to ‘follow the oxygen and glucose,’” neutral Jeremy Lack told an online group as a preface to his theory of mediation and resolution.

Lack presented his research at the latest installment of the Conversations in Conflict series hosted by the New York Law School’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills Program on Aug. 12.

Lack is a veteran practitioner, frequent lecturer, and member of three national bars along with being listed on several neutral panels, including the CPR Institute’s Panels of Distinguished Neutrals. Lack joked that he may be the world’s only quadri-national mediator, being a citizen of Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Israel, which may prevent him from being appointed if nationality is a consideration in the selection of neutrals.

Research being carried out at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences at the University of Geneva forms the basis for Lack’s TRI-O/S model, whereby the brain operates with faster and unconscious, emotional and social operating systems, which precede a slower, cognitive and rational operating system. 

These emotional and social networks serve as rapid triage systems, operating in milliseconds, to influence and shape conscious thinking and decision-making that will take place hundreds of milliseconds later. They are coordinated to minimize wasteful consumption of the brain’s limited resources: glucose and oxygen.

The TRI-O/S model looks at human behavior at three levels, or Operating Systems. “O/S 1” corresponds to emotional patterns of thinking, such as a flare of anger at an unreasonable offer or a rush of excitement when a resolution finally becomes apparent.

“O/S 2” are social patterns of thinking that explain such tendencies as biases, the desire for a comfortable sense of status, and a sense of belonging.

“O/S 3” are rational patterns of conscious thought and decision-making, but that can occur at different levels, such as reflexive (more frugal) thought processes or reflective (more wasteful) thought processes.  When we are tired or our resources are depleted by emotional and social considerations, the brain will be limited to rigid, reflexive pathways.

According to Lack, mediation participants tend to believe they are working mostly rationally, with O/S 3. Yet it is inevitable that the faster O/S’s 1&2 precede and influence what type of rational thinking is possible at the O/S 3 level. Emotions and social influences are always present, even if we are not aware of them.

In the fractional moments before any given cognitive decision is made, all three O/Ss will be activated, but O/S 1 and 2 will precede O/S 3, and influence which neural correlates will receive more oxygen and glucose–for example to avoid danger or obtain a reward. In terms of the limited resources consumed by these operating systems, this means that O/S 3 will always be last in line — granted only leftovers to cobble together into a rational thought.  We lack the ability to distinguish when we are thinking reflexively or reflectively.

Initial subjective stimuli will always affect mental activity and objectivity, and the capacity to think and take optimal decisions. Feeling stressed or treated unfairly will hinder cognitive abilities.  This theory supports the maxim that the more tired or angry a person is, the less rational they are likely to be.  The same is true for social influences, e.g., feeling excluded or treated unfairly.

Lack says he believes that other such maxims can be revisited using the TRI-O/S theory. Initial emotional stimuli (such as fear or reward) and social stimuli (such as feeling “in-group” as opposed to “out-of-group”) can activate different parts of the brain, leading to different patterns of downstream rational thought.

The amygdala, or anterior insula, may consume more oxygen and glucose in some situations than others, limiting the way the prefrontal cortex can be activated. The brain prefers to follow established networks of thinking that are partly genetically and partly environmentally shaped, which Lack calls “mental heuristics.”

A mental heuristic of the socially-oriented O/S 2 type that labels others as being “in-group” (e.g., a friend) switches on empathy circuits that are unavailable to people who have been labeled as “out-group” (e.g., strangers).  This triggers different forms of pro-social and anti-social patterns of behavior that are innate to all human beings. 

Fortunately, these networks are plastic and malleable, and skilled mediators can activate pro-social heuristics and weaken anti-social ones. This explains another piece of common knowledge — that humans are highly sensitive to the feelings of friends or loved ones, but can be equally cold and insensitive when it comes to the feelings of strangers or “others.”

The advantages of a shared meal with the parties the night before a mediation or conducting talks around a round, as opposed to a rectangular, table may seem slight, but they can trigger powerful “in-group” vs. “out-of-group” unconscious heuristics, which will greatly influence cognitive and rational capacities.

The greater ability to empathize generated by these small acts of behavioral priming can help stimulate cooperative behavior and weaken competitive behavior in ways that the O/S 3 is simply not aware of, greatly influencing the quality of rational thought, and the brain’s ability to be creative in finding better solutions for settlement.

As the online event drew to a close, an audience member asked whether the TRI-O/S model may do away with traditional conceptions of law and justice, instead tethering everything to biology and emotional or social instincts. Lack’s response was a shrug, noting, “We are still in the dark ages of understanding neurosciences and what is really happening in the human brain.  What I can say for the moment is that justice is not devoid of emotion or social influences.” He added, “The rule of law invokes a lot more subjective variables than we realize.”

But these variables may be understood and skillfully used by a mediator willing to apply neuroscientific approaches to trigger innate heuristics that can optimize group behavior and the quality and depth of thinking, focusing on possible mutual “rewards” as opposed to “losses.”

Lack encourages mediators to participate in and support research in this field and use its teachings to broaden their tools of practice.  He concluded by citing a recent article to be published in the September 2020 edition of Cortex magazine, which apparently demonstrates for the first time, with fMRI data in support, that mediation really does stimulate different thought processes in the brain as compared to negotiation, leading to higher settlement rates and higher satisfaction ratings. 

While the research was done on romantic couples, its findings should equally apply to commercial disputants. We are all using the same hardware. It is the operating systems we are running on them and how they interact with one-another that mediators can influence.

* * *

For more on Jeremy Lack’s theory of ADR, see his 2012 publication with international mediator François Bogacz, “The Neurophysiology of ADR and Process Design: A New Approach to Conflict Prevention and Resolution?”, 34 Cardozo J. of Conflict Resolution [Vol. 14:33] 33-80 (2012) (available at https://bit.ly/3iKzMhV). For the new Cortex article describing the benefits of mediation over negotiation, see https://bit.ly/2YmfSlB. Recordings of NYLS’s Conversations in Conflict Resolution series, including Lack’s presentation, are available at https://bit.ly/2Fg5Mf9.

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The author, a CPR Institute Fall 2020 intern, is a second-year student at Brooklyn Law School in New York. This article was updated with clarifications and further explanation by Jeremy Lack on Aug. 21.

[END]

Invitation for an Open Dialogue

A letter and invitation from CPR President & CEO, Allen Waxman

Dear CPR Members and Distinguished Neutrals:
Like many of you, we are frustrated, concerned, angry and sad: because of the grotesque inhumanity evidenced in the death of George Floyd; because the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are just the latest in a terrible list of fellow human beings who have had their breaths tragically snuffed out; because of the destruction with which some have responded to that inhumanity; because of the evident and understandable pain of so many; because we are so disconnected; because we haven’t earned that connection. Yet, as a community, we also believe that conflict must breed resolution, and resolution must reinforce our purpose. Our purpose has to be to combat racism, discrimination, implicit bias and injustice. We must commit to the small steps reflected in our initiatives to recruit, promote and select diverse neutrals. And, we must also commit to the giant leaps of trust, courage and sacrifice necessary for change to become reality.  Let us remember the observation that Andrew Young shared with our community in his 2018 keynote address at CPR’s Annual Meeting:  “…in every conflict there is a streak of humanity.”  

This Friday, June 12th, at 12:30 ET, via Zoom, let us come together and connect our humanity. No agenda just a safe space. Let’s open a dialogue together to share.  Our conversation will be moderated by Judge Timothy Lewis, CPR neutrals Erin Gleason Alvarez and Gail Wright Sirmans, and CPR board members: Bayer U.S. General Counsel Scott Partridge, Winston & Strawn partner Taj Clayton, and Debevoise & Plimpton partner John Kiernan.                

For CPR Members and Distinguished Neutrals Only
Contact Richard Murphy at rmurphy@cpradr.org for your registration link

Acting Naturally in a Virtual Office

By Heather Cameron

On Thursday, May 28, 2020, the CPR Institute hosted the second in its series of presentations on conflict in closed spaces entitled “Positive Culture in the Virtual Workspace.” The webinar was led by James Traeger, Director, and Carolyn Norgate, Principal Consultant, of Mayvin, a U.K.-based management consulting firm focusing on organizational development and design.

Mayvin has been operating as a “virtual” organization since long before the COVID-19 outbreak forced so many businesses to move online, the principals explained in the CPR-sponsored webinar. James and Carolyn, however, said they prefer to think of it as “remote,” rather than “virtual” working because the interpersonal connections built and maintained are still very much real.

Started in 2010 on the heels of the financial crisis, Mayvin works with organizations to help foster development and by increasing leadership’s understanding of the interests, motives, concerns, and inspiration driving their people.

The increased emphasis on flexible and virtual working James said he noticed when he co-founded the firm has only become more critical now as so many organizations have had to quickly adjust to a completely remote way of doing business.

This new environment, he said, requires a laser-like focus on business needs and the relationships required to deliver results.

Carolyn kicked off the substance of the webinar by leading participants in a process called “structured reflection.” She directed participants to reflect on what brought them to the session, to write down their thoughts, and even to reflect on different questions that may occur to them in the moment.

After a quiet minute or so, she instructed everyone to put their notes aside and look out the nearest window, focusing on what was drawing their attention, bringing their thoughts back to what they were seeing any time they started to wander.

Next, everyone was to draw a line under their notes and write down whatever they were now thinking about. Finally, participants were directed to look out the window one more time for a “grateful minute,” noting what they appreciated about the scene before them.

Carolyn explained that this exercise in shifting focus is a strategy Mayvin uses with clients to help them “slow down to go faster.” The idea is that by taking quality time to reflect, the individual may be able to problem-solve using different, more artful ways of thinking.

Conscious reflection, she said, can also play a vital role in developing a healthy, productive culture in a purely virtual organization by making space for innovation and interpersonal connection.

At its founding, the presenters explained, Mayvin was set up as an experiment aimed at shifting the mindset that an office is needed to have a real organization–an idea proving more relevant now than ever. As many are now realizing while isolating, social-distancing, and working remotely, the lack of a physical office can lead to unanticipated practical concerns: For example, how do you use technology to effectively stand in for water cooler chat, five-minute conversations over a coffee break, impromptu one-on-one check-ins, and all the other interpersonal interactions that create the “relational glue” required for an effective organization?

One practical solution Carolyn and James offered was the use of what they call a “noticing channel” on Slack or Microsoft Teams–a line of communication between employees completely separate from work-related discussions and emails that functions like a virtual form of casual conversation around the water cooler.

Mayvin also uses a random channel where employees have posted photos of at-home projects, family members, and even photos of themselves as teenagers. The idea is to maintain the type of non-work-related interpersonal connections that happen organically in an office even while everyone is working remotely.

The key take-aways, they said, for successfully navigating the shift to online and remote work include treating it as an experiment and remembering it’s all about mindset. Hold the tech lightly, they said: Remain nimble when determining what works and what doesn’t, always aiming to stay focused on what is working.

Where possible, they advised, use tools people are already comfortable with, helping them apply those familiar tools to new scenarios. Give people time and support to work through the change curve, making space for employees to air their fears and concerns and work through their feelings.

James likened it to choreography or setting a stage in theater. He encouraged the use of gallery view in video conferences so everyone occupies the same amount of space.

In smaller meetings, he suggested asking that everyone unmute themselves to allow for more natural interactions. Use the type of structured reflection Carolyn led the group through to shift mindset between meetings.

Create the glue that allows virtual workspaces to work well, they said, remembering that there’s more room for misunderstandings in virtual spaces. Preventing misunderstandings helps prevent disputes and enable purpose.

* * *

The author, a second-year law student at Fordham University’s School of Law in New York, is a Summer 2020 CPR Institute intern.

A Letter from CPR President & CEO, Allen Waxman

It has been a month since my last update to you, and certainly much has happened during this strange and challenging time. I hope that you are finding ways to tend, not only to the health of your businesses and professional lives, but also to yourselves personally. While honoring our responsibilities to our companies and clients/customers, I believe it is of paramount importance during this time also to be gentle with ourselves and each other. If it feels difficult, it is because it is difficult! We are trying to take the same counsel at CPR.  Our staff has all been working remotely, and finding ways to connect with each other over diverse platforms.  I now know the look of the kitchens, living rooms or guest rooms of each of my colleagues.  That takes us to a whole new level!

At the same time, I am so very proud of our staff in being true to our mission – managing conflict to enable purpose.  We have continued to offer insightful programming on how to prevent and resolve disputes most effectively during this time while also providing our dispute resolution services.  Your engagement and support (financial and otherwise) for us is more important than ever to enable us to pursue our mission.  Thank you.

I thought I would take this opportunity to review with you some of our activities over the last month.

CPR DISPUTE RESOLUTION REMAINS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

CPR Dispute Resolution continues to operate seamlessly, offering our full suite of dispute prevention and resolution services. Given the backlog in the courts, the time for ADR is now.  DRS’ services, rules and protocols, and Panel of Distinguished Neutrals can help resolve matters efficiently and effectively.

Arbitration – For parties in disputes during COVID-19, you may want to consider converting a pending court case to a CPR Administered Arbitration, or entering (with the other party) into an arbitration clause more appropriate under the circumstances. In both cases, you will need to enter into an arbitration submission agreement with your counterparty. Model language for doing so can be found HERE.

Mediation –CPR’s Mediation Services are also available to assist businesses in these difficult times. You can find more information on these services HERE. In addition, CPR has just announced the upcoming launch of a new COVID-19 Flat Fee Mediation Program, in collaboration with Legal Innovators and FTI Consulting, to resolve disputes below $5 million. That program is being kicked off with a free May 13 webinar.

Dispute Prevention – We have launched a new Dispute Prevention Panel, comprised of neutrals who have the experience to facilitate resolution of a dispute before it becomes a legal conflict.  You can find more information HERE.

Because our offices remain closed, new filers should continue to submit electronically at cprneutrals@cpradr.org, and all payments should be made via credit card or wire transfer (please specify in your cover email how you would like to pay); paper filings cannot be accepted. To send files via Voltage encrypted email, please email herickson@cpradr.org to be authorized.

NEW PROGRAMMING

We recently hosted one of many programs that are part of our COVID-19-related focus, titled “Stability in the Pandemic: Personal, Professional and Global Targets.” This webinar featured renowned academics Lela Love, Professor of Law and Director of the Kukin Program for Conflict Resolution at Cardozo Law School, and Sukhsimranjit Singh, Assistant Professor of Law and Practice and Managing Director of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law. The speakers discussed holistic methods to approach conflict while social distancing, touching on key mediation strategies and self-care techniques to create a positive and conflict-free living and work space. A recording will be available soon and can be found in our “ADR in the Time of COVID-19” section, along with numerous other resources, HERE, and I encourage you to explore and check back often for updates.

SOCIAL DISTANCING – BUT STILL SURGING AHEAD ON ALL FRONTS

CPR continues to forge ahead and grow in numerous other ways I am delighted to share with you.

New Partnerships – CPR recently announced a strategic partnership with the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), through which IADC named CPR as a recommended ADR services provider. The IADC will be promoting CPR membership, DRS services, and arbitration and mediation rules to its 2,500 members, which in turn will gain access to valuable CPR benefits, resources and discounts, including CPR membership and other joint programming opportunities. And this collaboration is bearing almost immediate fruit, in the form of our upcoming joint webinar, “Resolving Legal Disputes in the Era of COVID-19.”

Support for Remote Video Arbitrations – Ever responsive to the changing legal landscape, CPR quickly convened a task force that created an Annotated Model Procedural Order for Remote Video Arbitration Proceedings. The model order puts into one, user-friendly document the best practices that the arbitration community needs to navigate remote video hearings. This new model procedure is a perfect example of what CPR can do and does regularly – harnessing the rich insights and vast experience of its membership to create timely and cutting-edge resources that both benefit users and enhance the capacity for ADR, in general.

The Drive for Diversity Continues – Since my last update, CPR also took a further step toward promoting diversity in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) by launching a new clause to be used by parties who wish to pre-commit to a diverse panel of neutrals in a future dispute to be resolved by arbitration. Read the full press release HERE.

New Data Security Resources – CPR continues to take steps to help parties and neutrals address the challenges of maintaining data and cybersecurity in ADR matters. In our new website section, you will find information relating to communicating with CPR on case-related matters, cybersecurity in arbitration and other ADR proceedings, data protection and the CPR online dispute resolution platform, as well as other technology tools and member discounts for e-filing services.

Networking for Neutrals – CPR has continued its role of providing service to the ADR community by convening three Neutrals Forums in different time zones to provide a space for the exchange of questions, learning and best practices for remote proceedings during the time of COVID-19. Participants were able to discuss issues that have arisen or are anticipated to arise in such proceedings such as the potential for witness coaching and the handling of exhibits during such procedures. The CPR Annotated Model Procedural Order was circulated to attendees and several of its provisions highlighted. Neutrals, please watch your email inbox for future invitations.

A RICH SCHEDULE OF UPCOMING PROGRAMMING

Our events calendar continues to be as relevant as it is robust. Upcoming virtual events include:

New events are scheduled regularly, so be sure to check our website Upcoming Events section regularly for new offerings.

STAY SAFE AND STAY STRONG

This has been a trying but also a productive time.  Keep engaging with us as we navigate this new normal together.  We in the CPR community are a resilient and resourceful bunch, and I am confident that, with generosity and patience, we will continue to overcome these challenges together.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, or just let me know how you are doing. (Instead of hitting reply, please drop me a note at awaxman@cpradr.org to make sure I see your message quickly.)

Warm regards,

Allen Waxman

CPR Takes to the Web As ADR Continues in the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis

By Anne Muenchinger, Federica Romanelli & Michael Hotz

CPR on Monday hosted an online event, ADR in the Time of COVID-19: How Neutrals & Advocates Can Use Zoom for Mediations & Arbitrations, a 90-minute training dedicated to helping neutrals and advocates use the Zoom Professional online meeting platform, and how to integrate online tools into alternative dispute resolution practices.

Chicago-based attorney Thomas Valenti, an arbitrator and mediator who heads his own firm, and is a member of CPR’s Panels of Distinguished Neutrals, conducted the session.  Held via the platform he was discussing, Valenti showed more than 200 participants the ins and outs of Zoom Professional and how to adapt it for ADR-centric tools such as preliminary hearings, screening arbitration expert witnesses, and private party-mediator caucuses during interparty negotiations.

Monday’s lunchtime session was a follow-up to a March 17 online CPR Institute Mediation Committee where committee members, including Valenti, compared online platforms and electronic mediation techniques.

Details of both sessions are below, as well as information about an American Bar Association online ADR program held last week.

* * *

At the March 30 program, Valenti led a discussion centered around security issues, a key concern for neutrals in using online tools.  Valenti explained the many Zoom features that control access to information, including “end-to-end encryption” of meetings; identification processes; password protection for meetings; waiting rooms that control meeting attendance; the ability to lock meeting rooms once all parties are present, and auditory signals when someone enters or leaves the room.

Valenti discussed essential resources for guidance in the process of moving to an online forum, including  the ICCA-NYC Bar-CPR Protocol on Cybersecurity in International Arbitration, which provides a framework for information security measures for individual arbitration matters. He also noted Zoom’s own white paper and documents on the subject.

Valenti strongly advised using the Protocol’s Schedule A, which contains a “Baseline Security Measures” checklist and provides neutrals with the right questions about their online practice. The spirit of the Protocol, he said, is to offer a framework within which neutrals can make decisions and best adjust online tools to their individual practices and client needs.

Valenti noted the CPR Institute’s participation in the Protocol’s construction by its Working Group. CPR representatives included Senior Vice President Olivier P. André, along with Hagit Elul of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, and Micaela R.H. McMurrough, Covington & Burling, both New York-based partners at their respective firms.

Several Zoom features were explained and demonstrated, including breakout rooms, which can be used for private meetings and caucuses; screen sharing and white boards, which allow for information display or form filling on the spot, and document annotation by all attendees.

A recording of the session will be available soon on the CPR Institute’s new website Resources coronavirus clearinghouse page, ADR in the Time of COVID-19.

Valenti warned that users must recognize the potential shortcomings of online ADR. The assessment of body language will be limited, and there are no guarantees that there is no one sitting off camera or that the meeting is not being recorded.

Meeting participant Dean Burrell, of Morristown, N.J.’s Burrell Dispute Resolution, suggested a tactic he uses to deal with potential issues: He said he asks the parties to scan the room every so often to confirm no one else is present.

Another concern often raised is whether the session is being recorded; Valenti pointed out, however, that this concern is similar to any other mediation or arbitration with the use of smartphones. Hosts should acknowledge that the process is not perfect, but that risks can be minimized.  He said hosts should ask participants if someone else is in the room and not to record the session.

But beyond the  COVID-19 crisis, online ADR practice provides a useful tool for reducing costs and improving efficiency.

For arbitrators, online tools such as Zoom can help them stand out among tech-averse peers, and market themselves as having the ability to continue to push matters forward.

For mediators, online tools should be an addition to an experienced mediator’s set of skills, and can easily be used to set up documents, type in agendas, and set goals during a session. Hosts can also pass control to another party, and use different colors to identify each participant.

Valenti’s demonstration featured a video with Giuseppe Leone, founder of Virtual Mediation Lab, and showed that online mediation is not a new phenomenon. But the COVID-19 crisis is providing the ADR world with an opportunity to move itself forward with technology—not just as a substitute, but as a way to improve its practices.

Valenti recommended that the session host prepare all necessary documents beforehand and have them available on the host computer before beginning the online session, ready for display and sharing. Additionally, mediators should be more conscious about time when conducting an online, as the experience initially will be different from one in a physical space.

Hosts should also be conscious of the level of skill and familiarity that parties and counsel have with these online tools.

Valenti suggested using the initial pre-hearing conference, as set out under CPR Institute Administered Arbitration Rule 9.3, and in the 2019 CPR Rules for Administered Arbitration of International Disputes as an opportunity to test each participant’s level of comfort.

So an easy way to introduce online tools is to switch from a phone call to a video conference for the initial prehearing.

* * *

The genesis of Monday’s CPR members and neutrals-only Zoom training was CPR’s March 17th Mediation Committee meeting.

The Mediation Committee meeting featured two speakers–Kathleen Scanlon, Chief Circuit Mediator for the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and James South, Managing Director, Senior Consultant and Mediator for the Center for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in London—who presented their perspectives on a variety of mediation issues, including a comparative look at mediation practices on either side of the Atlantic, before focusing on mediating during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Committee then heard how CAMP (the Second Circuit’s mediation and settlement program), CEDR, CPR and the New York District office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are dealing with mediations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kathleen Scanlon began by discussing the benefits of Sonexis (see sonexis.com) as a conferencing system.  She explained that it delegates pin numbers to each participant and allows the mediator to create private rooms for each party and join them as needed. Parties can then notify the mediator when they want to talk with the mediator.

She said there hasn’t been too much difference, anecdotally, between the success rates of mediating in person and with teleconference. Still, the video/audio approach leads to more accidental interruptions. It also decreases the ability to read body language, which can affect trust. The teleconference process also can be more tiring for the mediator to manage.

CEDR’s James South then stated that he uses Zoom.  Meeting participant Thomas Valenti agreed, also recommending the business version of Zoom to conduct more complicated mediations—which prompted the Monday, March 30 session he led, discussed above.

The Mediation Committee meeting participants, who like the March 30 session also participated by Zoom, agreed that it is critical that the conferencing technology used complies with privacy and confidentiality rules like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (best known as the GDPR). It also was recommended that the parties should consult the ICCA-NYC Bar-CPR Cybersecurity protocol.

James South noted that many mediations had been going on normally during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, but that he expected that to change over time. He said he has found that parties have been flexible, and been willing to move to video conferencing. He noted that he is unsure if this will survive the crisis, or is only due to the current state of affairs.

South, however, was confident that any reduction in mediation will return to normal levels.

* * *

Committee members then had a lengthy discussion of the issues surrounding the health crisis.  CPR Institute Senior Vice President Helena Tavares Erickson commented that she had provided to members of CPR’s Panels of Distinguished Neutrals a list of services that they could use to mediate effectively during the crisis.

Erickson noted that CPR Dispute Resolution Services offers its neutrals the option of using a secure document exchange, which allows for online text chat in different chat rooms. (For CPR Institute Dispute Resolution filing details, see www.cpradr.org/dispute-resolution-services/file-a-case.)

Meeting participant David Reinman, who is supervisory ADR coordinator of the New York District’s U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office, reported that his unit has a program that is currently handling all mediation by video or phone. The EEOC also is allowing parties to reschedule if they insist on in-person mediation. Parties who need translators or other special accommodations may invoke applicable proceedings, too.

Tom Valenti asked about screening procedures when conducting in-person mediations. It was noted that many law firms are forcing people to sign waivers stating that they hadn’t been in at-risk places. Given current advisories and shutdowns, however, it’s unclear that such waivers are effective. If parties want to continue doing face-to-face mediation—which has ceased entirely in many shutdown locations for the duration of the emergency–best practice would be to state that they haven’t been in contact with anyone who is infected.

Meeting participants noted, however, such mandatory declarations on disclosing other parties’ infection status could potentially violate HIPAA rules.

Various other online platforms and training options were compared among the participants near the meeting’s conclusion.

* * *

Beyond CPR’s online training event and meeting, and the resources noted, including the new CPR Institute website Resources clearinghouse page, ADR in the Time of COVID-19, others in the legal world and the dispute resolution community have tackled the move online.

For example, the American Bar Association webcasted a panel of experts on continuing with mediations, arbitrations and similar ADR commitments while coping with coronavirus.

The 90-minute March 20 web panel, “ODR in the ERA of COVID-19: Experts Answer Your Questions,” featured panelists including Hamline-Mitchell School of Law Prof. David Larson; online dispute resolution pioneer Colin Rule, who is a Stanford Law School lecturer, and University of Missouri School of Law Prof. Amy Schmitz. It also was hosted on Zoom.

The panelists shared a presentation while providing useful links on a side chat and taking Q&A from the attendees on another window—an electronic version of social distancing that has been repeated, and is rapidly become an ADR standard operating procedure.

The panel provided a list of advice for neutrals wanting to add tech tools to their toolbox.  It focused on accessibility; preparing lists; ensuring a competent approach; accessing live assistance as needed; analyzing online providers (see, e.g., http://odr.info/provider-list/); taking stock of the role for non-verbal communication; assessing whether the disputants will communicate synchronously; confidentiality; considerations for designing an ODR system; ensuring fairness; and ethical considerations.

The ABA panel concluded on ODR resources, providing the following links:

  • Cyberweek 2019; the NCTDR hosts Cyberweek annually at its website.
  • com, a collaborative resource guide.
  • Amy J. Schmitz and Colin Rule, The New Handshake: Where We Are Now (June 27, 2017). International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution 2016 (3) 2; University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2991821

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Muenchinger is a CPR Institute Spring 2020 intern, and an LLM student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City, focused on the March 30 session discussed in this article.  The section on the CPR Mediation Committee meeting was prepared by CPR Institute Spring 2020 intern Michael Hotz. The section on the ABA seminar was prepared by CPR Institute Spring 2020 intern Federica Romanelli. Alternatives’ editor Russ Bleemer assisted with the research and writing.

 

 

Experiences & Impact from CPR’s 2019 International Mediation Competition

By Ibrahim Godofa (A member of the University of Nairobi Team)

The 2019 CPR International Mediation Competition has definitely been one of the key opportunities that I have been lucky enough to participate in this year and arguably for the entirety of my law school period. I believe it was an incredible opportunity for my teammates as well.

My attention was first drawn to this competition on LinkedIn where the poster was shared by Mr. Olivier André from the CPR Institute. I immediately shared the information with like-minded colleagues at the university and a team was formed, whereupon we applied for participation as well as a partial scholarship that had just been instituted to aid disadvantaged teams. Upon assessment, we were selected alongside 17 other teams from across the globe as the only team from the African continent. Additionally, we were granted the partial scholarship to participate!

“The role all of these takeaways will play in enhancing the position of mediation in Kenya, especially among our fellow students, cannot be underestimated.”

The competition period that took place between the 4th and 6th of April in São Paulo, Brazil was probably the most intensive and beneficial learning opportunity throughout the process. Coming from a jurisdiction where mediation is still a progress in motion, the first evening of the training session, featuring short lectures about the various emerging aspects of mediation, was an incredible way to start a learning curve that would last for the following two days. It was quite an eye-opening kick-off and equally interesting to be introduced to emerging technologies as well as business aspects, such as agricultural ones, in the practice of mediation. While this training session served as an effective way to expand the participants’ views on the evolving practice of mediation, we also found it to be a helpful approach to preparing for the actual competition, whose themes revolved around these emerging aspects.

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The Nairobi team, receiving their award for best teamwork. The author, Ibrahim Godofa, is pictured on the right, along with his teammates Edgar Usagi Alema (left) and Sumaiyah Abdi Omar (center).

The first day of the competition provided many different kinds of lessons, as my team and I got the chance to go up against excellent teams from world class universities all around the world. My team had the rare chance to go up against teams from three different continents: South America, Asia and North America on this first day. It was quite an awesome experience trying out our preparation against teams that had different approaches and internal qualification processes to get to this stage of the competition, and some of which even had coaches, unlike my team. It was also an interesting experience to compete in the style in which the competition was set up—which was new to me, and (as I learned from speaking to them) to several of the other participants as well.

Additionally, as a team we had always known mediation to be a conflict resolution process that is not bent towards a win-lose outcome. While retaining the important values of a mediation, this competition allowed us to simultaneously act upon the rush of competitiveness coming from all the teams while maintaining a respectful and professional sportsmanship, which was one of the highlights of this phase of the competition observable from all the teams present.

The first day of the competition culminated quite memorably for us, with an announcement that our negotiating team was through to the quarter finals the following day. Being part of our negotiating team, this presented serious excitement for me and also meant continued work within the limited time we had to prepare for the quarter finals round. The quality of the competition in this round was even a notch higher than the previous day’s, and so were the stakes. However, my team would learn later in the day that our impressive run would end at this round, albeit against a worthy opponent, the Harvard Law School team.

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The team from the University of Nairobi, School of Law, taking a well-deserved break

Outside the competition rooms, there was an extended opportunity to interact and network with current and future voices in global mediation. This ranged from top-of-their-class students from the various participating universities as well as other professionals who were present in different capacities as judges, coaches and other volunteers. Interacting with these individuals and exchanging contacts provided an invaluable door to long-lasting partnerships and collaborations that are particularly priceless coming from a jurisdiction such as ours, where borrowing from global best practices brings a special kind of difference in an under-developed field such as mediation.

At the end of the competition, my team was recognized with the “Best Teamwork” Award, upon the completion and compilation of feedback from the excellent judging panels that we came across in the various rounds. This feedback from the judges, which continued to come to our attention even after the competition was long finished, has been a very important part of the competition’s learning process and my team is incredibly proud to have emerged with an award testament to the positive and constructive feedback that the judges had on our performance.

One of the main attractions of this competition to our team lay in the impact that the experience would have on mediation back in our circles at home, both in general and at our school in particular. The lessons taken home by our team from this experience are numerous. Some of the key takeaways from the wholesome experience of the competition include:

  • Best practices from other universities as far as student activities centered around mediation is concerned in their schools, especially for the universities from the United States
  • Valuable feedback from the judging panel, some of which contain long-term lessons for our future practices
  • And, most importantly, a model mediation practice procedure that can be employed to sharpen the skills of eager students back at our school through student-led trainings

It is important to also note that our team’s participation in this edition of the competition was the first of its kind at our school as far as any international Alternative Dispute Resolution competitions are concerned. Our participation has therefore paved way for other students to look for and take up similar opportunities, and to benefit from the connections that our team acquired internationally which can be leveraged to create a ripple of opportunities to others who will come after us. The role all of these takeaways will play in enhancing the position of mediation in Kenya, especially among our fellow students, cannot be underestimated. With all signs indicating the rise of mediation practice around the world, we are certainly committed to advancing this important dispute resolution resource within our immediate circle of friends and fellow students, starting from our school. And a big thank you goes to the CPR Institute for the invaluable role that it continues to play in driving a global mediation culture.

Our team’s appreciations go to Olivier André, the amazing Chris Silva and Franco Gevaerd from the CPR Institute, all of whom played a key role in making our experience of this competition, alongside their other colleagues, so memorable.

And oh! Brazil was an awesome place and the Paulistas were very friendly and welcoming residents of a great city! We had a wonderful time.

 

Notes from AM 19/ Preparing For the Robo-Revolution: Arbitrating Smart Contract Disputes

By Shannon Collins

Following up on last week’s CPR Speaks post on the CPR Institute’s 2019 Annual Meeting—see “The ‘Risky Business’ of NAFTA, BITs, ITAs and Global Trade” (March 21)–blockchain, artificial intelligence and “smart” contracts were the focal points of CPR AM19’s Session 7, “Preparing for the Robo-Revolution: Arbitrating Smart Contract Disputes.”

On Friday, March 1, panelists Daniel E. Gonzalez, a Miami partner in Hogan Lovells; Andrew James Lom, a partner in the New York office of Norton Rose Fulbright; Lee Schneider, a New York-based general counsel at block.one, a Grand Caymans company that publishes protocols enabling blockchain transactions; and moderator David L. Earnest, Shearman & Sterling partner in Washington alerted attendees to the increasing use and necessity of technology in arbitration, as well as the legal professional overall.

The session’s topics included the use of technology in arbitration today, an overview of blockchain and an introduction to Ricardian contracts.

Daniel Gonzalez started the panel off by discussing the arbitration technology. He noted that general counsels are pushing for more use of technology because they strongly believe it will increase efficiency. Software can be used to help appoint arbitrators, conduct document review, aid in document production, manage costs and assist with research.

Picking arbitrators with artificial technology poses several issues, Gonzalez explained. While it can assess a likely outcome of a case using algorithms, these algorithms rely on correlation on a purely mathematical level, while legal disputes are based on causation.

These algorithms can also be biased, which seems counterintuitive, but they are programmed by people. People are inherently biased and the data sets that they use as a base for the algorithm may reflect those biases, which in turn can affect the outcomes.

Lee Schneider echoed this concern, noting that people working in artificial intelligence are grappling with getting the right data set because if the data is skewed, then it can result in biases. Programmers must be careful and judicious about the elements of the data sets.

The discussion noted that even if they are carefully coded, algorithms can still fail to see the human factor in disputes that an arbitrator may see. An arbitrator could be swayed on a deeply personal level by an argument and rule in a way that is inconsistent with their history. The algorithms cannot account for this. In arbitration, this means there will be accurate data available for the arbitrator to consider when ruling on a case.

Gonzalez brought up questions of “robo-arbitrators,” which are not yet replacing arbitrators, but that Gonzalez says will play an increasing role in the process and is something we should all embrace. Not many institutions have rules specifically requiring “natural persons,” Gonzalez informed the room, which brings interesting determinations of whether Due Process is satisfied with the use of a robot as arbitrator. Another concern with robo-arbitrators is their inability to provide reason for a decision. They purely provide an outcome.

Gonzalez also discussed technology specifically in the context of construction disputes. Drone technology collects data that can be useful for monitoring tagging of each piece of equipment or material as well as tagging workers. By using a tagging system, the supply chain and the project’s progress can be tracked entirely from inception to construction, thereby ensuring transparency and efficiency.

The tagging systems are an example of the kind of data that can benefit by storage on a blockchain. As explained by Andrew Lom, the blockchain is a database where data lives in blocks. The chain links these blocks together through a crypto-relationship. These blocks are sealed once a new block is added to the chain and it is incredibly difficult to alter a block once the new block is added, because additions are conspicuous and documented.

Lom emphasized that the blockchain is not automated or perpetual. You need people to pay attention to the database, he said. This doesn’t mean that it would always need to be monitored, but without attention, then it could fall apart, because alterations in blocks of data could go unnoticed.

The blockchain serves as a useful tool on which smart contracts can be stored. A smart contract is a self-executing contract. Lom equates it to when a bank is authorized to automatically pay the minimum on a credit card. It is done automatically without the debtor’s need for immediate implementation.

Smart contracts are written in code like a computer program. Ricardian smart contracts are contracts that are written partially in computer code and partially in human-readable language. (A smart contract usually describes the terms and contains codes that execute electronically under the contract’s terms, while a Ricardian contract is similarly linked to code, but is usually fully realized whether executed or not.) According to Lee Schneider, this introduces the human element into drafting smart contracts. Humans serve as a check for the execution of the contract. They can discover when something goes wrong and resolve the issue.

Andrew Lom posed the problem of bugs in the code. If the code is flawed, could that constitute a drafting error? A person would have to catch it and correct it. Could that correction potentially be modifying the substance of the contract?

These are questions and problems that will be answered only in time. As for now, Schneider noted, we are all participating in a digital world.

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The author is a CPR Institute Spring 2019 intern.

CPR Philadelphia Regional Meeting at Stradley Ronon on Effective Mediation Strategies for Client and Counsel

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By Anna M. Hershenberg, Esq., Vice President, Programs and Public Policy, CPR

On April 10, 2018, the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (“CPR”) held its first Philadelphia regional meeting at the offices of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP, a long-standing CPR member and first recipient, more than a decade ago, of CPR’s “Law Firm Award for Excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution” for the firm’s commitment to principled and creative conflict management and resolution.

The meeting drew more than 130 people, with the attendees split evenly between in-house counsel from Fortune 500 companies, trial attorneys from the nation’s top law firms, and highly sought-after neutrals. The prominent attendees included 15 former judges and general counsels and chief legal officers from Aetna Inc., Comcast Corp., Deloitte, General Motors Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, Hewlett-Packard Co., Independence Blue Cross, Johnson & Johnson, KPMG LLP, Merck & Co., Monsanto Co., Pfizer Inc., TE Connectivity Ltd., Triumph Group. Inc., and Verizon Communications Inc., among others.

The program, “Effective Mediation Strategies for Client and Counsel,” was divided into three parts.  Bennett G. Picker, Senior Counsel at Stradley Ronon, CPR neutral and member of CPR’s Council, and Noah Hanft, President and CEO of CPR, kicked off the meeting with welcoming remarks.

Wharton School lecturer and mediation trainer Eric Max then led the first part of the program, “Negotiating Strategies for Clients and Counsel,” by facilitating an interactive discussion among the in-house counsel, outside counsel and mediator audience members.  Professor Max outlined the multiple layers of negotiation occurring at any given time during a mediation.  He challenged the audience with provocative questions, such as pressing each stakeholder to reveal if they lie to each other during the course of a mediation and exploring the reasons for their conduct.

After a networking coffee break, the program resumed with Sophia Lee, Partner at Blank Rome and former Chief Litigation Counsel at Sunoco Inc., skillfully moderating a panel discussion on the keys to effective preparation and advocacy with panelists Francine Friedman Griesing, Managing Member of Griesing Law; Scott S. Partridge, Vice President of Global Strategy at Monsanto and a member of CPR’s Board of Directors; and John Wright, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Triumph Group.  Of particular interest to the attendees was Mr. Partridge’s explanation of how he created a relationship-based conflict identification and resolution process to shrink Monsanto’s – and then the entire industry’s – litigation portfolio.

The highlight of evening came when the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis (Ret.), Counsel at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, former federal circuit and district court judge and Chair of CPR’s Diversity Task Force, and Mr. Picker led the third part of the program, “Promoting Diversity in Mediation.”  Mr. Picker – who has been championing diversity and leading by example for decades – provided concrete steps that in-house counsel, outside counsel and mediators can take to drive diversity and inclusion in the dispute resolution field.  Judge Lewis then delivered deeply moving and personal remarks on his experiences as a black attorney and federal court judge in a predominately white legal world.  He challenged the audience to mentor colleagues from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, reminding them that everyone got to where they are by standing on someone else’s shoulders, and “that talent is distributed equally across all races and ethnicities and genders and identities. Opportunity is not.”

He set out his vision for what true workplace inclusion should look like and how to achieve it: “The goal here is not to be included simply because of race or gender; the goal is not to be excluded simply because of these qualities. But in order for us to get there, we have to make a concerted effort, and we must challenge ourselves, our assumptions, and sometimes each other.”  Judge Lewis’s remarks, which received a standing ovation, will appear in Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation, CPR’s monthly international newsletter (see altnewsletter.com).

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Pictured: Bennett G. Picker and Honorable Timothy K. Lewis (Ret.) 

The evening concluded with closing remarks by Thomas J. Sabatino, Jr., CPR Board Vice Chair and Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Law & Regulatory Affairs at Aetna and a networking cocktail reception.

In short, the CPR Philadelphia Regional Meeting introduced attendees to what CPR does best: create opportunities for high-level conversations between inside and outside counsel and provide businesses with the tools to cultivate a corporate culture that embraces diversity of perspective, and early and creative ways to prevent and resolve business disputes.

 

About CPR

CPR is an independent nonprofit organization that, for more than 40 years, has helped global businesses prevent and resolve commercial disputes effectively and efficiently. CPR’s membership consists of top corporations and law firms, academic and government institutions, and leading mediators and arbitrators around the world. CPR is unique as: (1) a thought leader, driving a global dispute resolution culture; (2) a developer of cutting-edge tools and resources, powered by the collective innovation of its membership; and (3) an ADR provider offering innovative, practical arbitration rules, mediation and other dispute resolution procedures, and neutrals worldwide. For more information, please visit www.cpradr.org.

 

About Stradley Ronon

Stradley Ronon attorneys have served with distinction as neutrals, both independently and under the auspices of ADR provider organizations such as the American Arbitration Association, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, and the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR). Stradley Ronon attorneys have built a reputation for fairness and creative problem solving and are highly regarded for their ability to understand complex commercial transactions and cutting-edge technologies. In recognition of its commitment to principled and creative conflict-management and resolution, Stradley Ronon’s ADR practice group received CPR’s inaugural Law Firm Award for Excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution. For more information, please visit https://www.stradley.com/

CPR Releases New Mediation Best Practices Guide for In-House Counsel

By Erin Gleason Alvarez and Rick Richardson

As co-chairs of the Mediation Committee, we are pleased to announce the release of the Mediation Best Practices Guide for In-house Counsel: Make Mediation Work for You.  The Guide will be launched as part of the CPR Institute Annual Meeting in Atlanta from March 8 through 10, 2018.

Make Mediation Work for You was inspired by conversations among in-house counsel that have arisen in the Committee.  What is the best way to convince counterparties that mediating early is a good thing?  How do you best prepare for mediation?  Should you always accept a counterparties’ suggestion on the mediator?  What is the best way to keep negotiations going if the mediation concludes without settlement?

The Guide answers all of these questions and includes insider tips from in-house counsel throughout.  Make Mediation Work for You begins with a discussion on when to contemplate mediation and then takes the in-house reader though every step in the process: from convening the process and making negotiations plans before the in-person session to creative solutions for overcoming impasse and structuring a settlement agreement.

Make Mediation Work for You will undoubtedly be a valuable resource for CPR members.  We are grateful to the Mediation Committee members for their efforts in creating this important guide, most notably John Bickerman, David Brodsky, David Burt, Steve Comen, Steve Gilbert, Duncan MacKay, Chris Mason, Judy Meyer, Meef Moh, and Mike Timmons.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the Annual Meeting next week!

 

Erin Gleason Alvarez and Rick Richardson co-chair the CPR Mediation Committee.  Rick serves as Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Dispute Resolution and Prevention for GSK.  Erin is the former Global Head of ADR Program for AIG; she now has her own mediation and arbitration practice and is a member of the CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutrals