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Bar News - January 4, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions About the Office of Mediation and Arbitration and Rule 170

Q. What is the Office of Mediation and Arbitration?

A. RSA 490-E provides that the Office of Mediation and Arbitration (OMA) will administer all the ADR programs throughout the New Hampshire court system starting July 1, 2007. Those programs include probate mediation; small claims mediation; voluntarily mediated adoptions; mediation in the Family Division and in family cases remaining in Superior Court; and the Rule 170 Superior Court ADR program for civil and equity cases.

The legislature appropriated $137,000 to launch the ADR office, which will ensure implementation of the mandatory program in all 10 counties. The funds will allow the office to operate for a year (ending June 30, 2008), after which the ADR office has to be self-funding.

Q. Why establish a central office?

  • The central office, with a fulltime director, was established to: increase citizen satisfaction with the legal system;
  • enhance court efficiency;
  • guide the development of ADR programs;
  • serve as an ADR resource to judges, court staff, attorneys and ADR professionals;
  • set standards and qualifications for ADR professionals; provide access to dispute resolution providers in all divisions of the court system; and oversee the quality of dispute resolution programs...

Q. What is the change in the Rule 170 program?

A. The new statewide program will use both volunteer and paid ADR professionals. In order to support the ADR office, professionals on the paid ADR list will have to pay a $350 rostering fee. Volunteers do not have to pay the rostering fee.

Q. Does the ADR office have other sources of revenue?

A. Yes. There is a $5.00 surcharge on all probate and district court cases which helps support the ADR office and is also used to pay mediators, by law, in certain cases. That revenue alone, however, will not support the new centralized ADR office.

Q. How does the new Rule 170 system work?

A. In the new program, counsel and parties will be able to choose a volunteer or paid ADR professional from the courtís roster. They will also be able to choose the location of the ADR session and, within certain limits, the schedule of when ADR will occur.

Q. Why choose a paid mediator if volunteers are available?

A. For many years, in high damage, complex litigation, a typical practitioner could and would opt out of the Rule 170 program, which uses volunteer mediators, in favor of hiring a paid mediator. Under the new program, those paid mediators have been asked to pay the $350 rostering fee and stay within the Rule 170 program. The benefit is that parties will still be able to have the ADR professional of their choice, while the paid professionals will be helping to support the work of the ADR office through their annual rostering fee.

Low damage, non-complex cases, typically handled within the Rule 170 volunteer program, are likely to continue to be resolved within the volunteer program.

Under the new rule, parties will still be able to opt completely out of the Rule 170 program.

Q. How do I sign up for the program?

A. Lawyers currently on the courtís list of volunteer ADR professionals are grandfathered into the new program.

New participants in the Rule 170 program will have received a packet of materials explaining how to sign up for the program and the training requirements. They will be considered for the program after training is completed and their applications are reviewed.

Q. Is special training required under the new Rule 170 program?

A. Attorneys who are already part of the Rule 170 program will be required to complete an eight-hour refresher program within one year, at no cost and for which CLE credit is available. New recruits to the Rule 170 program will be required to take a 20-hour training program, for which CLE credit is available, at a cost of $275.

Lawyers are encouraged to sign up for the program and help support the new ADR office. For more detailed information about the program, and training program schedules, contact the director, Karen Borgstrom at

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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