Our series, My Favorite Resource, features interviews with our court ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite resource. This month, Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet spoke with Peter Salem, Executive Director of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts to learn about his favorite resource.
NW: What is your favorite ADR Resource?
PS: My favorite ADR resources are my phone and computer, because they contain the contacts for the network that I have developed over the last 30+ years. There are a lot of great blogs, websites, journals, and other print and electronic resources out there, but knowing who to ask often helps me uncover valuable nuggets that I would not have otherwise known about.
NW: How did you develop your network and what recommendations do you have for anyone looking to develop their own network?
PS: My father preceded me in the field and introduced me to many of his colleagues, so I had a head start. But I also learned from him and expanded my circle. I attended conferences, asked questions, used the telephone instead of email (full disclosure: email did not exist when I started), developed project ideas, and asked for advice and help. I volunteered for everything; newsletters, committees, boards, and conference planning. After a while, I started teaching and training. That’s a lot of extra work on top of a full-time job, and a lot of the money came out of my pocket, but it gave me the opportunity to invite others to teach, write, or work on projects, and they typically said yes. Because I was often part of the planning group, I was invited to the small dinners, etc., when the rock star ADR people came to Wisconsin. I would later see them at national conferences and we would already have a connection, and everything flowed from there. I didn’t plan this, of course. I just took on interesting projects with people I liked. So I guess my recommendation for others looking to establish a network is get involved and do interesting things with interesting people. Start small and locally, and do an amazing job. People notice great work, mediocre work and especially work that is not completed.
NW: In what ways have you found that your network has been better able to serve your needs than a traditional print resource?
PS: I use my network to help solve problems and answer questions, and for me that is an iterative process. Websites and journal articles provide valuable information, but they are just a starting point, not something to be taken at face value. We are in a field that advises people to dig beneath the surface and look at underlying issues. Why wouldn’t I follow that advice when working on my own stuff?
NW: Can you share an example of when you turned to your network for support?
PS: As the executive director of a 5,300-member organization, I frequently get requests for information or referrals that I can’t answer myself. But I have access to a lot of experts and can easily put a handful of names in an email to people with the requisite expertise. People appreciate any answer and are even more excited to get a response from a leading ADR author, researcher or practitioner. Similarly, there are some great listservs out there that serve the same function, albeit in a less targeted fashion. For example, the Bestinterests-talk list is an independent list run by an AFCC member for people in family law/dispute resolution. There is an amazing exchange of information and ideas.
NW: What do you value most about the input you receive from your network?
PS: The input from my network is always thoughtful, honest, and it comes from experienced professionals with a very high level of expertise. That is invaluable. But what I value even more is that my network exemplifies the incredible generosity of dispute resolution professionals. Throughout my career, leaders in the field have been willing to take the time and effort to help me learn and grow. And to paraphrase my good friend Susan Yates (a long-time member of my network), now that I am more senior in the field, I hope that I am following in their footsteps.
If you have a favorite resource you would like to share, please reach out to Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, Nicole Wilmet!