Professor Phyllis E. Bernard




Phyllis Bernard

Office Hours:

By appointment

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Administrative Law
  • Professional Responsibility
  • State and Local Government Law

A.B., cum laude, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
M.A., American History, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY
J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School – with studies in health care finance at the Wharton School of Finance & Business

Professor of Law

Robert S. Kerr Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law

Director of the Center on Alternative Dispute Resolution


Phyllis Bernard is the Robert S. Kerr, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law and founding Director of the Center on Alternative Dispute Resolution at the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Her teaching and research portfolio includes: administrative law & regulatory practice; corporations and corporate governance; alternative dispute resolution; the emerging law of globalization with a special emphasis on human rights and corporate social responsibility; Islamic business ethics; commercial negotiation among non-Western cultures applying Western Rule of Law. The Center on ADR’s certificate in client representation in ADR, using materials of the National Institute on Trial Advocacy, was one of the first in the nation to focus strongly on ADR as a part of a continuum of skills essential for the modern lawyer; and to teach ADR skills courses within a solid framework of legal ethics, advanced legal writing, civil procedure issues, evidence rules, and the law of legal malpractice.

During the decade that the Law School hosted the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Early Settlement Central Mediation Program, Bernard led students in synthesizing high level legal theory about mediation and justice and the real world of court-connected and community mediation. The work of the Center created ground-breaking protocols on: domestic violence; psychological and financial abuse; suicide-homicide risk; gun safety; cross-cultural dynamics of gender, race, faith, ethnicity and tribal identity; class analysis; ethical obligations of the lawyer in mediation.

Recognizing a need to handle child permanency placement mediations under the Indian Child Welfare Act with greater cultural sensitivity, Prof. Bernard (Caribbean-American of Igbo and Bengali lineage) teamed with Prof. Stephanie Hudson (Kiowa) and Tresa Gouge (Creek) to develop what became known as “Tribal Peacemaking Oklahoma Style.” This approach to dealing inclusively and flexibly with identity has now traveled the world; adapted for use by tens of thousands of peacemakers from West Africa to Afghanistan. Principles and insights from this tribal peacemaking work helped set the continuing focus and tone of pedagogy, staffing and course design for the ADR program at the School of Law.

Prof. Bernard is a respected researcher, writer, practitioner and innovator at national and international levels, speaking and writing frequently on the culturally appropriate, productive and ethical use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (negotiation, mediation and arbitration) to assure subjective and objective justice. Bernard “wrote the book” on legal ethics in ADR, developing and co-editing the first, leading text for practitioners and students alike on the topic: Ethics in Dispute Resolution: A Comprehensive Guide (ABA 2002). Her empirical studies of theories on cross-cultural dynamics in court-connected mediation broke new ground by identifying class as a more significant factor than either race or gender. Prof. Bernard’s pro bono service in Rule of Law projects in conflict zones of Nigeria, post-genocide Rwanda and post-civil war Liberia “rewrote the book” on tribal peacemaking and commercial/civil adjudication. From 2000 to 2006 she led innovative projects for the American Bar Association, U.S. State Department and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that are credited with preventing, reducing and resolving tens of thousands of conflicts that would otherwise have reignited communal warfare in Africa.

Prof. Bernard maintains a vital life in academia and in the “real world” – keeping her scholarly work and classroom teaching on the leading curve. She was the first Oklahoma City University School of Law professor to be named to a leadership position in the Association of American Law Schools, as Vice-Chair and Chair for the Section on Alternative Dispute Resolution. Her leadership on the Governing Councils of three American Bar Association Sections – Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice; Dispute Resolution; and ABA Africa – made lasting contributions to the Uniform Mediation Act; the Ethics 2000 Commission changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct; the Revised ABA-AAA Code of Conduct for Arbitrators; opt-out from mandatory mediation in the presence of domestic violence; and the development of protocols for implementation of ADR in the federal government.

Prof. Bernard began her legal career in Washington, D.C. with some of the nation’s most prestigious health law practices, helping to create most of the business and finance models that comprise the modern health care industry: managed care and PPOs; outpatient surgery centers; privatization of public hospitals; corporate reorganization to create integrated health systems; restructuring of employee & retiree health benefit plans to assure stability for Fortune 100 companies; Wall Street financing and SEC-compliant private placements for entrepreneurial ventures and for large capital projects for public providers; and helping establish and defend the disproportionate share adjustment for hospitals that serve the uninsured and underinsured.

Her skills in law and finance were honed early in her career as outside counsel to most of the nation’s publicly traded health care corporations; handling virtually all Medicare and Medicaid cost issues. In this capacity Bernard also learned the fine art of guiding clients through the minefield of complex regulations, antitrust law, anti-fraud and abuse provisions, white collar crime and whistleblowing protections. This broad and deep background brought her to the attention of the Reagan Administration, which appointed her to the position of appellate administrative judge serving on the Provider Reimbursement Review Board (the highest tribunal overseeing Medicare Part A for institutional providers).

Professional highlights include:

  • Fellow of the National Association of Administrative Law Judges
  • Governance Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors
  • Honorary Member, FIDA (International Federation of Women Lawyers) River State, Nigeria
  • Commissioner, Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission (drafted protocols and rules for ADR at the OMPC, plus ethics code for Commissioners)
  • Member, National Advisory Committee on Rural Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (assisted in bringing telemedicine to rural areas)
  • Consultant, Administrative Conference of the United States (report initiated ADR at the Provider Reimbursement Review Board)
  • Member, Board of Directors for Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (Regional Transmission Organization mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to manage the electric power grid in an 11-state region; to assure physical and cyber-security; and to operate a multi-billion dollar tariff and energy market.)

Admitted to Practice:

  • The Bar of the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court
View PUBLICATIONS on Selected Works.


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