Reflections on Our Field and Possibilities for Improvement

Indisputably

This week, I posted pieces listing various goals that people in our community have had, strategies that some have used, and guidance about writing pieces for the symposium.

I was inspired to write the posts after this summer’s Past-and-Future conference.  In two full days at the conference with an amazing cast of presenters, we could only scratch the surface of the broad agenda of the issues on the program.  I wrote my posts because I wanted to express my thoughts and encourage others to do so as well.

Reactions to the Huge Scope of Our Field

When I circulated a draft of a post combining the goals and strategies, several colleagues said that the lists were overwhelming and they urged me to shorten the lists.

One wag reminded me of the scene from the movie Amadeus, where the emperor told Mozart that his piece had too many notes and Mozart snarkily asked which ones he should get rid of.

I deleted a few items and split the post into two to make it more digestible.

But shortening the lists a lot would have defeated the purposes of compiling them.  First, I wanted to demonstrate the huge range of goals, strategies, and relevant factors.  Moreover, to develop good strategies for the future, it’s important to evaluate the effects of past strategies.  As the posts illustrate, we have used a ton of strategies and so it is important to consider what people might do more or less or differently to advance their goals in the future.

I was bemused by the fact that several friends felt very strongly that the lists in the post were overwhelming.  These folks regularly read and write long, complex articles and yet a five-page post with bulleted concepts that they were familiar with seemed way too long to them.  Part of the reactions may have had to do with norms about length of posts in our community.

I wonder if part of the reaction was to the incredibly broad range of things we want to accomplish and strategies for doing so.  I get that.  I had a similar reaction when I compiled a table of two years’ of scholarly publications and I was overwhelmed.

Continuing Our Work to Create Better Ways to Handle Conflict

We are a community of people who are deeply committed to making others’ lives better in so many different ways.  This includes our work in teaching, writing, practicing, and operating programs, among all the different ways I listed.

The broad scope of this summer’s conference – appreciating our legacy and engaging the future – was inspiring.

And scary.  In her piece, The Future is Calling. Don’t Hang It Up Yet!, Northwestern 3L Rebekah Gordon wrote that, “although I heard some positive buzz in the air about the future of the field, it was a little disheartening to hear that some were afraid the field was plateauing.  Despair and apprehension were the words that were used.”

I think that there is good reason for concern.  In a session on the “evolution” of law school DR programs, Doug Yarn said that the program he directed for years had just become “extinct.”  I don’t expect that DR will generally become extinct in legal education and practice, but there are reasons to expect a general decline in some ways, particularly in legal education.

Especially in a period of contraction, it is good to consider one’s situation and options.  This summer’s conference provided a good start.  The blog symposium is intended to continue the conversation.

All the readers of this blog identify as part of the DR community and have an interest in the future of our community and our work.

I encourage you to write a piece, long or short, for the symposium, including possibly meta or process reactions about the difficulty of “getting our arms around” the huge scope of our visions.

Hopefully, this also will stimulate ideas to make presentations through a theory-of-change lens at this year’s wonderful  Works-in-Progress conference at UNLV on October 3-5.

Faculty also could give students the option of writing a theory-of-change paper for the kind of practice they personally aspire to or for some part of the field generally.  This might be an option for a required or extra credit or independent study paper.

                        author

John Lande

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and former director of its LLM Program in Dispute Resolution.  He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He began mediating professionally in 1982 in California.… MORE >

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