Center on Alternative Dispute Resolution


Hard Skills + Soft Skills = Success for the 21st Century Lawyer


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    The Center on Alternative Dispute Resolution took an early lead in teaching the emerging law of ADR. Through the Center, students learn the doctrine and skills to be a formidable advocate whether inside or outside the courtroom.

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    Experienced advocates & adjudicators teach step-by-step how to take legal theory from the casebook and put it into practice. Students learn how to interview and counsel clients; how to draft an array of attorney work products; and how to navigate complex legal doctrines.

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    Upon completion of the ADR foundation course, students can take three skills-oriented courses based on curricula developed by the prestigious National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) and receive a specialized certificate in ADR Advocacy.

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    Professor Phyllis Bernard leads students in synthesizing high level legal theory about mediation and justice in the real world of court-connected and community mediation.


ADR Curriculum

Undoing the “Done” Deal and Adding Value to Client Representation

The foundation course The Law of Alternative Dispute Resolution provides students a solid framework for sophisticated problem-solving from a client-centered approach and the strategic use of ADR processes. The Law of ADR is a semester-long course in the hottest underlying issue for attorneys:

  • What issues and practices that can “undo the ‘done’ deal?”
  • How do we add value for our client through our representation – in ways that build a lasting law practice?
  • How do we protect ourselves against direct or collateral attack by persons seeking to attack the settlement?

If a law student has room in their schedule for only one course on ADR – this is the one to take. This in-depth coverage will NOT be offered in a CLE workshop. In addition, the format of the Law of ADR provides multiple opportunities to practice skills of legal analysis and writing that form the core of day-to-day law practice. Students will prepare attorney work products such as:

  • Case notes to the client file
  • Intra-office legal memoranda
  • Client opinion letters

This course, as many graduates have described, helped them review and integrate learning from a broad range of basic courses and shift from thinking like a law student to thinking like a lawyer. Because of the problem-solving approach and writing exercises, when presented with a real case in law practice, they not only knew the theory but how to put those theories to work. They could “hit the ground running.”

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Certificate in ADR Advocacy

Students who have completed the foundation course in ADR doctrine can take any one of the three skills-oriented courses based on curricula developed by the highly regarded National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). Students who complete all three Client Representation courses qualify for the Law School’s Certificate in Client Representation in Alternative Dispute Resolution. The course are:

Client Representation in Negotiation (including Interviewing and Counseling)

This course teaches step-by-step the building blocks of successful lawyer-client communication: how to listen for not only what is said but, as importantly, what is not said; how to interview a client in a way that builds trust and openness, while obtaining the information to build the decision-tree of options under the law; how to counsel so that the client and the lawyer have a clear, mutual understanding about the options available, risks and potential rewards, as a matter of law – not merely game theory; and how to negotiate on behalf of one’s client in settlement conferences, outside the presence of a third-party neutral.

Client Representation in Mediation

This course intersects with – but can be taken independently of or concurrently with – Client Representation in Negotiation. The Mediation skills course teaches a facilitative, problem-solving approach following the mediation advocacy style used in the ABA Dispute Resolution Section’s national competition. This course focuses primarily on how to work with one’s client, with opposing parties and with the third-party neutral in a more collaborative way than is taught in almost any other setting. At the same time, students are encouraged to maintain their full range of advocacy skills; keeping in mind that the lawyer’s duty to represent their client’s best interests requires the flexibility to employ a range of approaches.

Client Representation in Arbitration

This course teaches the nuts and bolts of preparing, presenting, and challenging an arbitration process or award. Arbitration is the ADR method that most resembles litigation. It is, however, more than “litigation lite.” In some ways, the stakes are even higher than in trial court, because there is little chance for judicial review of decisions made in the arbitration process or the award itself.  The arbitration advocate, therefore, must pay special attention to the details of process and presentation, especially since many arbitration hearings are “on paper” rather than in person. Attorneys who excel in arbitration combine an understanding of industry custom and the applicable law to create concise, convincing works of oral and written advocacy. This course provides students multiple opportunities to practice that winning combination, taking a simulated case from start to finish.

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The Value of ADR Training to the Community

Clinical skills are taught through active listening, calming techniques, and reframing to identify common ground through problem solving skills needed by all attorneys, especially our law students in clinics. Not only are student mediators helping families, clinic students are learning to interview not interrogate. We focus on a respectful client-centered approach by practicing professionalism with compassion while understanding there are facts in the feelings.

For More Information

American Arbitration Association


ABA Section of Dispute Resolution
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