What instruction does ASL offer in alternative dispute resolution?

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Alternative Dispute Resolution

As they developed the law school, ASL's first leaders envisioned graduates who would emphasize problem-solving skills and adhere to high professional ethics.

They would represent a throwback to an earlier generation of lawyers who were esteemed leaders in their communities instead of just hired guns. ASL should emphasize alternative dispute resolution because "courts have become overburdened" with slow, costly, overly confrontational litigation, the school's steering committee found.

Required Courses

The American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution and the University of Oregon School of Law's online searchable database on dispute resolution programs reveals that ASL's is unique. The school's founders created the first and, so far, only law school established with an ADR focus. Only 19 law schools require students to take an Alternative Dispute Resolution survey class. Research shows that ASL students who take only the required survey course likely have more training in ADR than most practicing attorneys, creating more employment opportunities for students and allowing graduates to more skillfully represent clients.

Advanced Courses

The data show that the vast majority of civil cases resolve before trial, and parties apparently settle most of those cases. To meet the requirements of skillful practice in this era, ASL offers an Advanced Negotiation practicum. It examines the skills and dynamics of negotiation. Students also learn a theoretical framework for understanding negotiation practice in a variety of contexts through readings from the fields of law, psychology, business, and communication. ASL has also offered a workshop on "pure money negotiation" that coaches students in distributive bargaining techniques and salary negotiation.

Historically, Virginia courts have referred about 10,000 cases to mediation each year. Tennessee recently required courts to refer all family disputes to a mediation-orientation session. North Carolina also has a well-developed court-connected mediation program. In the past several years, Kentucky and West Virginia also began emphasizing mediation in the family law and medical malpractice context. ASL's Certified Civil Mediation class provides both beginning and advanced mediation training, which Tennessee accepts as the entry-level training required for mediators who wish to work in court-connected programs.

In addition, the number of disputes filed with third-party arbitration providers now exceeds the number of cases filed in federal courts nationwide. Thus, ASL's seminar on Arbitration and Dispute Resolution System Design prepares students for the day when they will almost certainly represent a client in arbitration. It also provides the information they need to return to their communities to design dispute resolution systems for courts, employers, associations, and other organizations. Only 11 other law schools offer an ADR system design course at the J.D. level.

Last year, ASL added a practicum that combined doctrinal insurance law, pretrial practice, and ADR of insurance disputes in its Insurance Practice & ADR course. It gives students an opportunity to work as law firm associates on a complex, simulated insurance coverage dispute. Only one other law school offers a similar course.

In addition, the Client Interviewing and Counseling practicum introduces students to a new client-lawyer representation model called collaborative lawyering that is catching on in the family law area and makes great sense for lawyers practicing in rural areas. Only three other law schools offer a class focused on this topic.

ADR Study Program

ASL is one of only 49 law schools with an ADR-related study program. ASL's Lawyer as Problem Solver program focuses on the role of the modern attorney in facilitating strategic problem solving for clients inside and outside of the courtroom. The program seeks to provide students with the skills they need effectively to serve their clients, including skills in oral and written communication, interviewing and counseling, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, transactional drafting, estate planning, and pre-trial, trial, and appellate practice. In the last several years, about 20 percent of students in the graduating class completed the program.