Comments: Our Once and (Dimming?) Future Hope for a Professional Home: Peter Adler’s Letter to the Board of ACR

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Janice Fleischer     08/26/05
Benjamin's articles
This is a response to the articles regarding ACR written by Robert Benjamin. I was intrigued by his article headings, and,having served on the SPIDR Board for several years, one of which was while Peter Adler was President, decided to take the time to read them. I feel in sending this letter to the editor, I must preface my remarks: 1.I chose to read the Benjamin articles despite my usual reaction to his work as consistently (or deliberately) irritating; by that I mean he seems to use the tactic of provoking and getting a "rise" out of folks to get his point across- especially in the titles to his articles, conference sessions, etc.; I have always had a negative reaction to him and his work- this is the very reason I decided to read the articles: interestingly, it was because I thought I should not avoid that which I think I do not like or with which I do not agree, the very topic (it turns out) he was covering! 2.I was surprised to find that I agree with him in most of what he says; 3.I don't agree with Peter in all that he says in his letter(which I had seen when it was written); which was also a surprise; 4.and last, Mr. Benjamin and Peter are doing exactly what they say is not being done: they are beginning the dialogue which will eventually get us out of the transition period for ACR and into a more stable and, hopefully, supportve time for the organization. I fully agree with Mr. Benjamin's position that we MUST (in fact, I think we are responsible for) having and encouraging the conversations regarding the difficult issues facing the world today-all of them. If we in the field do not look at the "monsters" directly in the eyes and say "give us what you've got" to see where the conversation goes, why would others? We must be the role model. Note: I do not think it would be fair to have a controversial figure be the keynote speaker; fair to the controversial figure, that is, because it could be setting that person up for constant attack at that time. I think the better method would be to introduce the whole issue during keynote and then have several sessions during a conference dealing with that issue, which would include representation by the controversial figure or figures. This would allow a more in depth consideration of the matter. Notes and transcripts should be kept so we could follow this up with additional dialogues to begin to explore resolution of the matter. I agree that many of us, maybe for economic and time resource reasons, are more focused in our locale or region but we need to recognize how small the world is now. We cannot afford not to pay attention to what is happening internationally. I do not mean we must all have an international practice, but contacting, reading or somehow keeping in touch with those in our branch of the field from other parts of the nation and world can only serve to make our practices better for those we serve. A practitioner in England, Africa, South America, may be able to provide a new perspective to our practice at home. The internet(and sites like make this easy in today's world. Finally, I would submit that Peter's letter and Mr. Benjamin's articles, are the beginning of the next phase of ACR's development. The transition from three distinct organizations to one combined organization was difficult and long. Many dedicated and brilliant individuals gave their time and effort to making the change as smooth as possible. But any major change has bumps and wrong turns; that is just part of the transition. We learn from transition; now we can enter a next phase out of transition and into a phase that defines and details what we want to become as an organization based on what is working so far and what is not. Note: I do not agree with Peter's suggestion that we have sections go off on their own (another surprise from Mr. Benjamin; he too disagrees with Peter on this matter) I think we need to keep the sections within the organization so all the tough issues are addressed. I want to thank (oh, my goodness!) Mr. Benjamin for his thoughtful submissions. I want to thank him for getting me to write this long letter to the editor. But mostly, I want to thank Mr. Benjamin and Peter for getting us to stop "dithering" (as Peter would say) and get us into really thinking. Respectfully submitted, Janice Fleischer, J.D.

John    08/19/05
Robert- I enjoyed you thoughts on Peter Adler's letter. Obviously this is an issue which you've talked about for some time. I know I've heard references to your thoughts on this struggle within the entire ADR field/movement several times when I've heard you speak. It's like once people start recognizing it they want to put it in a box so it can be marketed and sold, taught, etc. "It" being the practice of mediation. I think the original idea of and for mediation was outside the box. It certainly was the way you explained and addressed it. I think that's why it appealed to me, a tired and discouraged domestic warrior. It appears to me from your comments and Peter's letter that he/you have serious concerns about our science/practice. I think the move towards uniform rules/codes was the hint of things and problems to come. Perhaps we should all return to the original "guerrilla" mediator focus and literally jump out of the box.

Alan Limbury, Sydney, Australia     08/18/05
As an Australian onlooker, I can't help intruding into the debate because I think the specialties in which Peter sees the action occurring, namely family, workplace, civil and commercial, environment, courts and regulatory agencies, and so on are themselves showing signs of even further segmentation. Within civil and commercial, for example, there is a discrete demand for intellectual property mediators. WIPO and NAF have IP expert panels. Law firms in Australia and elsewhere are looking for experience in the subject-matter of the conflict as well as experience and skill as a mediator. So he's absolutely right about mediation becoming a commodity, not merely in the US.