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Teaching Conflict Management Courses: Part 3

by John Wade
December 2011 John Wade
This is Part 3. Click to review Part 1 and Part 2.

Roving Teachers and “Pracademics”---Have Gavel will Travel.
Ironically, in the USA and  English speaking satellite cultures, these five competing teaching organizations tend to use a common pool of “roving teachers” to attract clients. They allege “uniqueness” while using the same teachers? These roving teachers all are “pracademics” with three streams of “knowledge” as practising mediators or arbitrators; writers and researchers; and skilled teachers of adult learners. Organisers from the five teaching groups know that these mobile facilitators have a reputation amongst many groups of potential students. Such teachers allegedly guarantee success to launch a new DR program; and can sustain a flagging series. They can be replaced with lower priced locals once a program has achieved some degree of “reputation”.

The same names tend to emerge at all five organizations within a state, province, and country---and occasionally the local reputation leads to invitations to teach in the equivalent five institutions of several other countries, until a local industry is established. The old names tend to be recalled (like aging rockers) when the local teaching personalities themselves become old hat, or overdo their own marketing.  It is sometimes a challenge to be a prophet in your own country.  Notable examples of these global roaming pracademics include pioneers such as John Haynes, Christopher Moore,  Joan Kelly, Randy Lowry, Forrest Mosten, Laurence Boulle, Nina Meierding, Miryana Nesic, Bernie Mayer, Hal Abramson, Pat Cavanagh etc.

However, the transition of roving teachers to other cultures is not always successful! Teaching across cultures is a fascinating minefield.

Competing for Students—the scarce “repeat” clients

The mediation and arbitration industries initially thought that there was a world full of customers awaiting our services. We were wrong, despite the proliferation of damaging conflicts in our societies. Likewise the dispute resolution teaching industries hoped for endless students knocking on our doors. We were also wrong.  The number of students willing to both pay, and take time out and effort to learn difficult skills in a systematic way, is limited.

DR courses as elective subjects at law schools compete with tax and corporate electives, a limited pool of faculty expertise, and publish or perish promotion imperatives. Conflict management short courses organized by law societies and private industry compete internally with many excellent “updating” and “recent developments” short courses in marketable areas of law such as mining, succession, family law, immigration, real estate and criminal law.

Anecdotally, the majority of  DR teaching programs in all five categories close or wither. Of course, that leaves a small minority of moderate to stunning mid to long term “successes”.

The limited use of DR education is at least because the potential students:
* Are busy;
* Are expected to acquire many other skills and knowledge in a lifetime of learning;
* Have limited funds;
* Believe that there are other more direct benefits between other courses and career success;
* Know that “updating” courses in “hard” professional subjects such as tax, concrete stressors, recent causes of hospital fatalities etc are more likely to reduce the immediate catastrophic risks of professional negligence;
* Have been disillusioned by initial over-selling from zealot and inexperienced DR teachers;
* Discover that there are limited DR career paths, clinics and mentors available   (eg see again the employment positions advertised in mediate.com);
* After initial training, discover that the DR skills are difficult to use in real-life conflict situations;
* Are limited in number in “small” countries. Thus there is a strong attraction to export basic 5 day training to the vast number of new world clients, especially in China, Russia, Indonesia and South America.

Question for Deeper Consideration

  • Write out or circle from the reasons above, why in your experience is it difficult to attract students to DR courses —first to initial courses; and then to more systematic learning?
  • What incentives exist for students to study DR, systematically, or randomly?
In North America and analogous cultures, incentives to study DR courses at university; or the ubiquitous 5 day foundation mediation course ( (“Can’t I miss the foundation course, John---I’ ve been doing this DR routine for 30 years? I’ll just go straight to the Advanced Course”); and then one day yearly“ recent developments updates, include as follows:
*Graduates being placed on lists of "qualified” mediators or arbitrators;
*Graduates satisfying yearly requirements to complete a number of hours of education to remain on “qualified” mediation, arbitration, lawyer, psychologist, teacher or accountancy lists;
*In some countries, “successful” completion of such courses is a licensing pre-requisite to mediation practice; or to being hired by a government organization; or to issuing “genuine effort to resolve” certificates which are needed before disputants are permitted to file in certain courts ( eg Federal and family courts in Australia).
* Gossip that certain courses are “interesting” and taught well; and that the leaders are “experienced” and supportive.
In the writer’s experience, except for the third reason above (“licensing”), these incentives to enroll are weak, because potential students quickly discover disincentives such as:

  • Merely being a name on a list does not provide any work, or any reasonably paid work. For example, most mediation clients do not care about lists; only about reputation, competency and price;
  • It is expensive to undertake mandatory courses and take out mandatory insurance to remain on the list;
  • The most employed mediators in any field do not seem to bother with courses (except to market themselves), or with lists;
  • There a few well paid jobs in the dispute resolution industry ( see the employment ads in mediate.com). There are more poorly paid jobs in the industry. However, it can be argued that skills for any work are enhanced by the skills and knowledge attached to DR teaching and learning.
  • There are so many incompetent mediators on the “lists” that there is not much “list status”;
  • New DR organizations (employment, tenancy, banking, farm debt, native title etc) often add their own “extra” and expensive training in order for mediators to be added to their own specialized lists of preferred or “accredited” mediators ( “qualification and training inflation”)
  • Predictably, some regularly employed mediators have formed their own elite organizations and are self-accrediting their own experienced colleagues, based mainly on strict entry rules of thousands of hours of paid mediation work; and not on more education. ( eg IAM—International Academy of Mediators).

Question

  • From your experience, please write out at least two incentives and disincentives to undertake basic, and then more complex DR education.

 

References
N.Alexander (editor and author), Global Trends in Dispute Resolution, 4 Volumes, 2006-2009
M Galanter, “A World Without Trials?” (2006)  J. Disp. Resol. 7
C.Honeyman, B McAdoo and N. Welsh, “Here There be Monsters”, 2001 at webmaster@convenor.com
C. Honeyman and A.K. Schneider, “Catching up wth the Major-General: The Need for a ‘Canon of Negotiation’”(2004) 87 Marquette L.Rev 637.
A K Schneider and C Honeyman eds, The Negotiator’s Fieldbook, (ABA, 2006)
J Wade, “Defining Success in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution Training” (2009) 25 Negotiation J. 171
J. Wade, “Mediation—Seven Fundamental Questions” (2001) Argang 86 Sevensk Jusrist Tidning 571 ( Sweden).

Biography


John Wade is an Emeritus Professor of Law at Bond University and a practicing lawyer. John is a nationally and internationally acclaimed expert in dispute resolution, legal education and family law. For the last 40 years he has taught at two Australian, three Canadian, one French and four US law schools. He has led over 250 courses in mediation and negotiation for law firms, government and industry in UK, Hong Kong, NZ, USA, Indonesia and Australia. John was one of the founding editors of the Legal Education Review and pioneered the postgraduate teaching of educational methods and theory to new law teachers. He has published over 100 books and refereed journal articles.

Mediation practice.  Since 1987, John has mediated hundreds of disputes in areas of family property, organisational, succession, insurance, and child disputes. He has developed a specialty in family property conflicts. In 2011, John was named by the International Bar Association as one of the top nine commercial mediators in Australia. In 2013, John moved to Vancouver, Canada with his family, and continues his mediation practice and teaching there.

John now lives in Vancouver, Canada. Contact: jwade@bond.edu.au



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