Bar News - September 17, 2010
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Alternative Dispute Alliance Convenes, Makes Plans for Greater Info Sharing
By: Kimberly Weibrecht and Melinda Gehris
Alternative dispute resolution is available to New Hampshire citizens in a variety of venues -- private ADR practitioners, community mediation centers, and through court-sponsored programs, to name a few. ADR services also are offered by state agencies such as the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau. Mediators and other neutrals in these programs come from various professional backgrounds including law, business, mental health, education, and labor relations.
Mediation in NH - Did you know…?
• Mediation is provided by volunteers in 11 Community Mediation Centers across the state in areas including: family conflicts, marital issues, victim-offender dialogue, workplace conflicts, and peer and youth mediation.
• In 2009, 37 cases were mediated through the ADR program at the NH Commission on Human Rights – 62 percent were resolved with the assistance of the volunteer mediation panel.
• The NH Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau uses trained volunteer mediators to assist consumers in disputes with businesses.
• The Judicial Branch’s Office of Mediation and Arbitration oversees dispute resolution programs at all levels of the judicial system.,
• There is no single governing body for mediators in New Hampshire; some mediators are paid, some are volunteer; each program has different education and training requirements, and the amount of required training and experience varies greatly.
While diversity has advantages, it does present a challenge to educate the public about the variety of ADR options available. That diversity also means various practitioners and administrators of ADR programs have been working in isolation, having no centralized place to exchange information, network, or even to inventory all of the existing ADR options. The ADR Alliance, a volunteer group comprised of professionals from the public and private sectors and including practitioners, users, and program administrators of alternative dispute resolution, was created in recognition of the fact that there was no umbrella organization spanning the wide spectrum of public and private sector ADR.
The Alliance had been meeting for over a year to discuss the growth of ADR in New Hampshire. The group is sponsored by three partner organizations -- the New Hampshire Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section, the New Hampshire Conflict Resolution Association, and the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Office of Mediation and Arbitration. The Alliance is advised by a 12-member Committee that includes Chief Justice John Broderick of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Jim Roche, the President of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, Dr. Oglesby Young, former President of the New Hampshire Medical Society, John Hutson, President of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, and Lela Love, Professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
On June 9, 2010, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Alliance hosted a Symposium on the Future of Dispute Resolution in New Hampshire. The Symposium was the Alliance’s first public forum and it gathered interested professionals to consider the future of ADR in our state. A significant number of ADR professionals and participants attended the Symposium and heard presentations from eight speakers on the many faces of ADR. The Symposium also included small-group brainstorming sessions to foster discussions on more coordinated development of ADR in New Hampshire.
Symposium speakers included: Tammy Lenski, a national conflict management consultant, who discussed the types and numbers of disputes settled by agreement outside the legal system. Ellen Arnold, NHBA Past President and a member of the legal department at Dartmouth College, conveyed the enthusiasm of the NHBA Board of Governors for the Alliance. Jim Roche, President of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association focused on how critical a well-functioning ADR system is to a healthy and inviting business climate. A recently-divorced father who used divorce mediation confirmed the many benefits of mediation in the family setting including the lower cost and reduced animosity between co-parents.
‘Why ADR Makes a Difference’ Nashua Program Oct. 6
The NH Conflict Resolution Association is holding a gathering for Nashua-area attorneys, ADR professionals and others with an interest in the field on Oct. 6. Chief Justice Broderick will be the featured speaker at "Why ADR Makes a Difference," a luncheon program from 12:00 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nashua Country Club. Also participating:
• District & Family Division Administrative Judge Edwin Kelly
• Probate Administrative Judge David King
• Hillsborough South Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Colburn
Contact Valerie Raudonis at 603-883-3831 for more information or to be added to an e-mail invitation list.
Chief Justice John Broderick, keynote speaker for the Symposium, stressed the need for more and better ADR options noting that it was a "sad truth" that courts around the country were "understaffed and undervalued" as well as falling behind in technology. He said the number of self-represented parties was growing exponentially and that in 70 percent of family cases, at least one side did not have an attorney. In a ringing endorsement of mediation, Broderick said: "If ADR did not exist, the system would be truly broken." As evidence of the success of ADR in the courts, he noted that 80 percent of the small claims mediated were settled, and the settlements honored. From the Chief Justice’s standpoint, "every case settled in mediation is a success."
In the second part of the Symposium, small groups discussed the presentations and generated ideas for potential future steps. The feedback provided from participants was captured by note-takers to ensure that the Alliance could use it in planning future actions. Attendees and speakers echoed concerns that the public is unaware of their options for resolving disputes, and confirmed the lack of communication and interaction among ADR sectors and professionals. All attendees expressed a need for the conversation to continue about the future of ADR in New Hampshire.
Rule 170 ADR Trainings
The NH Judicial Branch Office of Mediation and Arbitration will be holding a 20-hour certification training for attorneys interested in participating in the Rule 170 ADR program.
December 2, 3 & 6
8:00am - 4:30pm
Court Administrative Office
Completion of this training is required before you can participate in the program.
To register, please go to www.courts.state.nh.us to print and complete a registration form.
The ADR Alliance continues its work on both long and short-term goals and has had several meetings since the Symposium. The ADR Alliance has committed to the short-term goal of creating a website that will provide a clearinghouse for the public regarding ADR options in New Hampshire and also serve the ADR community as a professional resource for information exchange and networking.
Kimberly Weibrecht is managing partner at Weibrecht Law Office in Dover and focuses her practice on family law and mediation. She is co-chair of the NHBA’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section.
Melinda Gehris, an attorney, is a principal in Hess Gehris Solutions where she concentrates her time on dispute resolution. She is president of the NH Conflict Resolution Association.