Negotiating Gender: The Old White Men Speak

And they do so in favor of diversity.  See commercial arbitrator and mediator F. Peter Phillips‘ November 2006 National Law Journal article:  ADR Continental Drift:  It remains a while, male game.  I promised prescriptions for change and here are a few sent to me by Peter Phillips this morning.  Peter was, as I am now, a member of the CPR Diversity Committee.

Once again, based upon my personal experience and that of tens of thousands of other women in commercial legal practice I continue to believe that until we are fairly represented on commercial ADR panels, both arbitration and mediation, we cannot expect significant change.  This may happen as a matter of the natural “aging” process of the field.  The ADR field looks now exactly like the legal field looked to me when I entered it in 1980.  Not surprising given the fact that ADR is historically a “retirement” field.  That is already changing, to beneficial effect.

For the adventuresome, Peter’s pro-active recommendations below. I highly recommend, by the way, that you follow Peter’s Business Conflict Blog.  It’s one of the best out there.

(screen shot of google search for our local legal rag’s “top 50 neutrals)

¦ What if the country’s leading law firms—from which so many of our leading mediators and arbitrators emerge—had an incentive to encourage more diverse members of the firm to enter this field?

¦ What if a benchmark survey were conducted to determine how often law firms suggest mediation to their clients; how often mediation is in fact tried; and how often diverse mediators are proposed to clients by outside lawyers and ADR provider organizations?

¦ What if the property casualty insurance industry, as the largest consumer of legal services and of ADR services, conveyed its expectation that the firms that insurers pay for, when they propose mediators and arbitrators, will be expected to propose diverse individuals?

¦ What if influential national ADR organizations combined forces to better reflect their corporate and legal constituents, and meet their customers’ expectations, by sharing information on excellent women and minorities who are not now on their lists, but should be?

¦ What if initiatives were undertaken to encourage particularly promising women, younger people and minorities from firms to attend ADR colloquia, seminars and other events in order to network, learn and advance their visibility and recognition among the ADR community, as well as to contribute diverse views and perspectives?

¦ What if a mentor program were designed and funded, pursuant to which younger female and minority attorneys could “shadow” established mediators and arbitrators (whether or not they are women or minorities) and establish skills and reputations thereby?

¦ What if corporations and law firms intentionally engaged younger mediators who are women and minorities in smaller matters, so that those professionals would gain experience as neutrals and be better positioned for the larger cases?

¦ What if scholarships were established to enable young people to be trained as mediators and arbitrators, with the expectation that a person thus trained would be skilled not only as a neutral, but more generally as a negotiator and client representative in settlement?

¦ What if a very “early pipeline” were begun, and ADR institutions worked with Street Law Inc. (www.streetlaw.com), a national program that trains high school students in legal issues, or a similar organization to provide materials and information for children to become interested in ADR as a profession?

It is perplexing that this one aspect of the legal profession—a field that is otherwise so robust, so progressive and so creative—lags behind so miserably in satisfying client expectations for diverse practitioners. But there is no indication that it must be so. And with diligence, creativity and practical action, it will not long be so.

Here are more diversity resources from CPR.

                        author

Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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