MBA celebrates Conflict Resolution Week

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018
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Top: Program participants at the Oct. 15 Mediation on Trial mock hearing. From left: Justin Kelsey, Esq. (program chair); Cynthia T. Runge, Esq; Hon. Robert Langlois (ret.); Jeffrey A. Soilson, Esq.; Jeffrey Neil Fink, Esq.; Jeffrey Neil Fink, Esq.; and Heidi-Rachel Webb, Esq. (moderator).

Second from Top: The MBA's DR Section honored the work of the court-approved conciliation/mediation programs in the Worcester/Central Massachusetts area on Oct. 15. Sen. Harriette L. Chandler (D-First Worcester) and Hon. David G. Sacks (Probate and Family Court) were the event's featured speakers.

Second from Bottom: On Oct. 16, panelists discussed how communities can heal from the assault of bullying or a culture of sexual harassment. Panelists (from left): Steve Kurkjian, former Boston Globe reporter and editor; Julie Bryan, Esq., Casner & Edwards; Walter Robinson (moderator), editor-at-large, Boston Globe; Israela Brill-Cass, Esq., ombuds at Wesleyan University; Scott Roberts, Esq., Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP; Sarah E. Worley, Esq. (MBA DR Section Chair); and Jeanne M. Kempthorne, Esq. (program chair).

Bottom: The MBA's DR Section hosted a special reception on Oct. 18 -- declared "Dispute Resolution Day" in Massachusetts by Gov. Charlie Baker. At the reception, the MBA honored the memory and legacy of Frank Sander, a luminary in the field of conflict resolution, by presenting its inaugural MBA Professor Frank E.A. Sander Award in Dispute Resolution to David A. Hoffman (fourth from left). Special guest Robert Mnookin (third from left), a leading scholar in the field of conflict resolution, provided an inside look at dispute resolution today, during a Q&A session.

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Section welcomed DR professionals and the public to a slate of free events held around the state in celebration of Conflict Resolution Week (Oct. 15-19). In keeping with the theme of CR Week, all four MBA-sponsored programs served to highlight the many benefits that DR practices bring to the legal community and the people of Massachusetts.

CR Week kicked off at the Worcester County Law Library on Monday, Oct. 15, beginning with a mock hearing in which two attorneys debated the merits of mediation in a family law matter. A second event acknowledged the success of court-approved conciliation/mediation programs in Worcester and Central Massachusetts, featuring remarks by Sen. Harriette L. Chandler (D-First Worcester) and Hampden Probate and Family Court Judge David G. Sacks, who chairs the Trial Court’s Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution.

At the MBA on Tuesday, Oct. 16, a four-member panel discussed the varying degrees of misconduct brought to light during the #MeToo movement, while working to generate solutions for organizations with cultures of harassment. Moderated by Boston Globe Editor-at-Large Walter Robinson, the panel included Wesleyan University Ombuds Israela Brill-Cass, former Globe reporter and editor Steve Kurkjian, and attorneys Julie Bryan of Casner & Edwards and Scott Roberts of Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP.

Dispute Resolution Day Reception

By Mike Flaim

The MBA held the capstone event for CR Week on Oct. 18, which was declared "Dispute Resolution Day" through an official proclamation from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

In an evening reception in Harvard Law School’s Austin Hall, the inaugural Frank E.A. Sander Award in Dispute Resolution was given to David A. Hoffman. Hoffman is the John H. Watson Jr. Lecturer on Law at Harvard, and is also a founding member of Boston Law Collaborative LLC. He was unanimously elected to receive the inaugural award, with his peers citing him as a clear beacon in the field of conflict resolution.

Hoffman was introduced by attorneys Michael Zeytoonian and Brian Jerome, both members of the MBA’s DR section. Like them, Hoffman used his time to speak at length about the myriad ways Sander, the late Harvard Law School professor, had influenced him. He told a story from his days as a law student in which Sander was his advisor, and he lamented that he didn’t take advantage of that happy fact. He then deftly segued into a touching story about a young mother that coaxed tears from a few in the audience, with the moral being to never underestimate the legacy you may leave behind.

The founding and evolution of the dispute resolution field was further discussed by Hoffman, which continued into a lively panel discussion with Zeytoonian and Harvard Law professor and author Robert Mnookin. The majority of audience questions put forth to the panel focused on increasing public awareness of non-adversarial conflict resolution. The consensus was that the benefits of dispute resolution are gaining ground in more communities across the country, but there are still challenges that the field faces — specifically, the fact that citizens aren’t made aware of their non-trial options.

Click here to view 2018 Conflict Resolution Week event photos.