About Emma-May Litchfield

practitioner and academic in the ADR space

From Conference Series to Global Community-What’s next for the GPC?

As the GPC Series 2016-17 draws to a close,  it is time to take stock and consider how both the data analysis and conversations from each event might inform the future of Dispute Resolution.

As an academic, I am wary to avoid drawing conclusions before the final analysis is complete; but as contributor to the series from design to data analysis , I would like to share some of the themes I see emerging from this ambitious project.

Emerging themes:

  1. The move from ADR to DR
  2. Consideration of the sophistication of parties may prove crucial
  3. Education is key
  4. Lawyers see things differently from other stakeholders, including parties.

1.The move from ADR to DR

When we started the project, there was contention among committee members about the definition of different dispute resolution processes. In particular, the definition of ‘ADR’. Is it alternative DR, appropriate DR..?

As the project gained momentum, conversations moved from the idea of there being two distinct poles of DR. At one end, the adjudicative processes (such as litigation and arbitration) where the process and outcome are determined for the parties, and at the other end, the non-adjudicative processes (such as mediation), where parties have the opportunity to be decision-makers.

From these conversations, two things became clear. First, many stakeholders were starting to see the benefits of hybrid processes such as med-arb. Secondly, there was a realisation that dispute-savvy parties desire tailored processes that require DR practitioners to be familiar with a range of skills across the DR process continuum.

As such, we are now in a world where we no longer have a strict delineation between adversarial processes and non-adversarial processes. Now, all processes can co-habit within the DR landscape.

Facilitating the London Pilot, February 2016

2. Consideration of the sophistication of parties may prove crucial

The GPC Series invited participants to pay attention to the parties’ perceptions. As a result, we now have evidence (see pp 48-50) that parties who are unfamiliar with DR processes have different wants, needs and expectations from dispute-savvy clients.

The GPC has revealed that the ‘experienced user’ and the ‘sophisticated user’ may not always be the same. Parties who are familiar with a single DR process may not be dispute-savvy, as they will view a dispute through a limited lens. A dispute-savvy client will be able to look at each dispute individually, and may anticipate a tailored solution that draws on  a variety of DR skill-sets.

As a consequence, if practitioners want to satisfy the wants, needs and expectations of their clients, they must consider the sophistication of the parties participating in DR processes.

Facilitating the collection of the data at the inaugural conference GPC Singapore, March 2016

3.Education is key

This is not a new concept in the DR space. What has been made clear from the conversation is the importance of reviewing and reframing our educational focus.

This means education to facilitate change, rather than our current focus of building a heightened awareness about DR. Without careful thought,  DR professionals and academics may miss the opportunity to keep pace with the rapidly changing business world, which routinely incorporates pre-escalation and/or de-escalation systems into business models and dispute clauses into contracts.

Practical and skills-based training and education for both the legal and business communities will be the way of the future for those who do not wish to be left behind.

Participating as a delegate at GPC Sydney, May 2017

4.Lawyers see things differently from other stakeholders, including parties.

Unsurprisingly, the cumulative results of the GPC quantitative data supports the idea that lawyers play an important role in DR. It is both a strength and a weakness. At many events lawyers were seen as having the most influence in bringing about change, but they were also seen as the most resistant to it.

As our colleague Dr Olivia Rundle has identified, there is ‘a spectrum of contributions that lawyers can make‘ in DR. Combine this with the idea that clients at different levels of sophistication want different things from their lawyers (see pp 66-69), and it becomes abundantly clear that, to move with the times, some lawyers may need to adopt a more flexible mindset, with room for both adversarial and non-adversarial strategies.

Lawyers who understand these challenges and adapt to them have the opportunity to play an integral role in the future of DR. Without this, they will be left behind.

Celebrating how far we have come at the final GPC London, July 2017 

When considering the themes discussed in this blogpost, it is important to remember that the GPC Series 2016-17 collected data in relation to commercial dispute resolution. That said, there is feasibility for the insights gained from the project to prove fungible to other areas of DR. For example, family or community disputes.

I invite other academics to use the GPC to inform further research as we move from a series of Global Pound Conferences to a Global Pound Community.

Seeking Volunteers for Global Research Project

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Resolution Resources is seeking volunteers with experience/training in either research or dispute resolution (DR) to assist with the preparation of the Final Report for the Global Pound Conference (GPC) Series 2016-17. The GPC Series in a not-for-profit project initiated by the International Mediation Institute (IMI). The purpose of this project is to investigate the future of dispute resolution and access to justice.

Volunteers may assist with a range of tasks including:

Benefits of participating include the opportunity to:

  • Develop skills in research
  • Gain experience working on a global project
  • Work in a multi-disciplinary team

Commitment:

  • Equivalent to two days training
  • Minimum of 10 working days between July 2017 and April 2018

Please send a CV and cover letter of not more than one page to:

admin@resolutionresources.com.au

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Beyond the Roundtable: Hobart 2016

Roundtable 2016.PNGOlivia Rundle’s recent blog post outlined the agenda for the 5th Annual ADR Research Network Roundtable – a unique event for those of us in the ADR research space.

To follow, this blog post offers our view as to why the Roundtable is such a valuable and important event, particularly for those who have not yet participated.

A brief introduction: We are both ‘pracademics’. Rosemary is a Roundtable frequent flyer, while Emma-May was a first time contributor to the conference.

This year the Roundtable was funded by the University of Tasmania (UTAS). Our host, Olivia Rundle, co-ordinated an outstanding programme, including a diverse selection of papers – and typical of Tasmanian hospitality, we did not go hungry!

Picture this: a meeting of like-minded academics, practitioners, ‘pracademics’ (those straddling research, teaching and professional practice) and other ADR professionals, investing their time to workshop academic papers and projects that are in various stages of development.

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In the high stakes academic landscape, the Roundtable is an oasis for the encouragement of new approaches and bold research initiatives. This is a generous-spirited environment that is rare for most of us. As Olivia noted in her blog post, the Roundtable offers ‘an opportunity for risk taking and community building’.

This is not a soft space. However, the critique from academic peers is constructive and sensitively delivered. Commentators are driven by the desire to support and encourage their fellow researchers:

  • to see their work three dimensionally
  • to be thought leaders in the field
  • to present their work in a way that demonstrates academic rigour.

While this forum has traditionally been devoted to the non-adjudicative space, this year two papers were welcomed from the adjudicative space – a signal that the ADR Research Network is committed to adopting an inclusive approach to DR research across the DR continuum.

The Hobart Roundtable offered significant challenges and benefits to us both, despite being at very different stages of our professional development. It has enabled us to:

  • refine some of our ideas
  • enhance our understanding of current research and
  • be assured that there is a supportive environment that we can draw upon as we develop our personal research initiatives.

The next Roundtable is planned for 6-8 December 2017 on the Sunshine Coast. We encourage you to apply to participate if:

  1. You have an idea for future research/academic pursuit and would value the opportunity to workshop your ideas in a safe space with accomplished professionals;
  2. You seek to build your ADR network; or
  3. You are a practitioner or making a career transition from practice into the ADR space and want to pursue some research initiatives

Watch this space for blog posts about the papers that made their debut at the 2016 Roundtable…

See you next year!

Emma-May Litchfield and Rosemary Howell