ADR Committee outreach extends to judiciary, practitioners, law students

Issue May 2012 By Michael A. Zeytoonian

Michael A. Zeytoonian is director of Zeytoonian Center for Dispute Resolution LLC and a partner at Hutchings, Barsamian, Mandelcorn & Zeytoonian LLP, both in Wellesley. He chairs the MBA's ADR Committee and a member and past board president of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. He writes, blogs and lectures on ADR and collaborative law.

The Massachusetts Bar Association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee has embarked on a multi-dimensional approach of outreach to three components of the legal community this year -- the judiciary, ADR practitioners and law students.

This March offered a snapshot of the several initiatives the ADR Committee has undertaken. First, the ADR Committee released and began to distribute its newly designed ADR brochure, to be used to help promote the ADR Committee's mission of educating the members of the MBA, the judiciary, the Legislature, the bar and the general public about the benefits of ADR and the many ways to utilize ADR processes. These ADR processes include mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, conciliation and case evaluation.

The ADR Committee has been developing a relationship with the judiciary, through the Judicial Administration Section Council of the MBA, as well as with the Administration Offices of the Trial Court Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution and its chairman, Judge Mark Mason. Judge Mason and Acting Administration Offices of Trial Court Director and Staff Liaison to the Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution Tim Linnehan met with the ADR Committee in January and gave an enlightening presentation on the extent of the court's ADR programming.

One new initiative of the ADR Committee this year is to give ADR practitioners, as well as bar advocates who often represent parties in ADR processes, a forum for the exchange of best practices and discussions about challenges that come up in ADR practice. In January, John Fieldsteel and Brian Jerome presented to the committee on several issues that often arise in mediation.

In March, the ADR Committee opened up this best practices discussion held during each meeting by inviting other practitioners to attend its March 14 meeting. The Hon. Judith Dein presented on a couple of areas and issues that often arise in mediation. The two points she brought to the table for discussion were 1. addressing the strained attorney/client relationship and 2. determining whether the right people are attending the mediation.

Outside ADR practitioners and litigators attended and were engaged in the presentation and discussion. The ADR Committee also extended an invitation to its March open meeting to students from the ADR Society of New England Law | Boston (NELB). Ten law students and one faculty member from NELB joined in the discussion opened by Judge Dein.

The invitation of law students to attend the ADR Committee's best practices open meetings is just one of several efforts to reach out to area law students and develop a relationship between them and the MBA. On March 22, the ADR Committee manned a booth at NELB's Career Day. There, NELB alumnus Brian Jerome engaged in discussions with many law students interested in learning more about the growing area of ADR practice. In the fall of 2012, the ADR Committee will join NELB at one of its "brown bag" lunch meetings and offer a presentation on an aspect of ADR.

The ADR Committee's next "Best Practices" open meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 23, at 5:30 p.m. at the MBA's Boston office at 20 West St. ADR Committee member Mark Irvings will present on two problems -- one involving the mediator's confidentiality obligation and one related to the use of a panel of three arbitrators -- and facilitate the discussion that will follow his presentation. Those interested in attending should contact Elizabeth O'Neil, director of Public and Community Services, at [e-mail eoneil] or (617) 338-0560.