Moritz Law is home to one of the nation’s finest alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs, which studies and trains future lawyers in an array of processes other than litigation, including negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. The importance of alternative dispute resolution methods continues to rise as courts and clients explore other means of solving a range of legal disputes.
All Rise checked in with 10 alumni, whose practices focus on ADR, for insights into the current issues and future for this area of law.
Kristen Blankley ’04
University of Nebraska College of Law Lincoln, Nebraska
On the job, I: have three requirements: teaching, research, and service. On the teaching side, I love working with students as they develop new skills and learn about alternative ways to resolve conflict. With my arbitration research, I help contribute to national conversations on the proper role of law and courts in dispute resolution. For service, I do a wide range of activities, including coaching competition teams, co-chairing the Ethics Subcommittee of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, serving as the president of the Nebraska Mediation Association, and volunteering my time as a mediator.
How I got this job: Landing a job in legal teaching is similar to landing any other position – you have to be the right fit. I was lucky in that Nebraska College of Law was looking for someone to cover mediation and arbitration courses, which were the two areas that I most wanted to teach. That said, I thank my tremendous mentors at Moritz, including professors Sarah Cole, Nancy Rogers, Ellen Deason, and Art Greenbaum, among others, for helping prepare me for the job and offering continual support.
How I use my J.D.: I use my J.D. when I teach future lawyers, research and write law review articles, and when I advise organizations and governmental bodies on language that will govern the behavior of lawyers and mediators.
The most interesting case of my career: I no longer deal with “cases” in the traditional sense, but one of the best moments that I had as a teacher came at the end of last school year. I took three students to Chicago to compete in a mediation competition. After we came back, the students had a special trophy made just for me that says: “Outstanding Mediation Coach.” It is not always easy to tell when students appreciate your efforts, so moments like these are my favorites.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: I see mediation services as a wonderful way to promote access to justice. Every day, I see a new story about underserved populations and clients who do not have the money to hire lawyers to take cases to trial. My hope is that lawyers can embrace new business models, where they can provide limited settlement services, such as mediation and negotiation counsel, to help expand the availability of legal services.
Denton Whitney ’04
Whitney Mediation & Legal Counsel, LLC
On the job, I: help clients master their legacies by planning completely, managing conflicts strategically, and connecting more with those who matter most. I mainly practice in the areas of estate planning, contract law, and dispute resolution training and coaching.
How I got this job: I started my own firm in 2011.
How I use my J.D.: I counsel clients on wills, trusts, and estate administration. I also incorporate “legal thinking” and dispute resolution practices in all areas of my life, including teaching MBA students and other professional classes in negotiations and business law.
The most interesting case of my career: A mother passed away, leaving her adult children to administer her estate as co-executors. One of the children wanted a larger share of the estate than this child’s siblings, and the mother’s original will was in her safe deposit box. The court would not open her probate case until we could get the original will, but her bank would not release the will without a court order, which the court wouldn’t approve until the case was opened with the original will. Although no formal mediation occurred, this situation required all the dispute resolution skills my colleague and I had to get it resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: In 10 years, mediation will be more well-known as a successful process to resolve disputes than it is today. Effective mediation principles will help more people resolve disputes more frequently and effectively in the future, whether or not a formal mediation process is being used in a particular dispute.
Dania N. Korkor ’13
Legal Analyst, FairVote
Adjunct Professor of Law,UDC David A. Clarke School of Law
On the job, I: conduct legal research and writing on a variety of election reforms and on nonprofit law. We research and evaluate deficiencies in federal, state, and local electoral systems and propose appropriate legal and procedural remedies and advocate for their adoption and implementation in the relevant jurisdictions. As an adjunct professor of law, I taught a survey course on ADR that introduced theoretical and practical underpinnings of alternatives to conventional litigation.
How I got this job: While at Moritz, I took courses with Professors Dan Tokaji and Ned Foley, two nationally recognized election law scholars. I learned about the importance of those laws to everyday life and I was inspired to pursue work in the field of election law. Also, I earned a certificate in dispute resolution. My unique education from such a reputable ADR program made me a great fit to teach.
How I use my J.D.: At FairVote, I help draft statutory language that would enact our recommended policies. Cities and states use our language as a model or “best practice.” I learned about legislative drafting firsthand while interning at the Ohio Statehouse as a part of the Legislation Clinic.
The most interesting case of my career: I mediated a case between a contractor and his customer. There was intense disagreement over the renovation of a driveway and sidewalk. One of them brought a photograph of the area at issue. As they fired back and forth over the work that was done, I decided we needed to be more specific. I asked each party if they were satisfied with each particular slab of cement. When they agreed that a slab was well done and paid for, I ripped a piece of paper out of my notepad and covered that part up. It became apparent that the parties disagreed on only one slab of cement and the conversation quickly turned into finding a solution.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: I expect that subfields of mediation will continue to expand. For example, med-arb, a hybrid process of mediation and arbitration, is best suited in certain time-sensitive disputes. A great class, Dispute System Design, taught by my mentor, Professor Nancy Rogers, revealed how we can create dispute resolution processes based on a specific context to increase effectiveness.
Ron Isroff ’67
Isroff Mediation Services, LLC
On the job, I: enjoy working with attorneys and their clients to resolve their disputes.
How I got this job: After I retired from my law firm, I started my own mediation practice.
How I use my J.D.: It enables me to better appreciate the legal and factual positions taken by the litigants and to provide a foundation for suggesting alternative avenues for resolution.
The most interesting case of my career: A wrongful termination case involving a female employee who was misidentified as a man by a physician who subsequently committed suicide.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: Significantly increasing to accommodate the desire of clients to resolve disputes expeditiously and economically.
Brian Buzby ’74
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
On the job, I: have arbitrated over 300 cases. My arbitration/mediation work started in 1980 when I applied to be an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association (AAA). I was accepted and have served as an arbitrator with AAA ever since. I started on their construction panel, but have expanded over the years to serving on other panels – real estate, energy, and large, complex cases. I am also on the panel that mediates cases for the U.S. District Court in Columbus.
How I use my J.D.: My knowledge of the law enhances my ability to decide matters and work with parties in mediations towards a resolution that complies with the law. In addition, my J.D. and courtroom experience enhance my ability to “tone down” the legalities a bit and, again, work with the parties to achieve a resolution that works and, perhaps, avoids the harsh, and often unknown, outcomes that might prevail if the matter was referred to the courts.
The most interesting case of my career: About three years ago, there was a five-party dispute over the construction and design of a large hospital in Michigan. The hearings lasted for months in Detroit, and there were more than 44 days of actual hearings. It was interesting due to the time and complexity, what was at stake, and the wide variety of witnesses, including experts, who testified.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: I see it continuing and growing in the years to come, with greater emphasis on trained arbitrators and mediators, and greater emphasis on selecting and enforcing ways to make the process more efficient and less expensive. The number of matters going to trial is falling substantially and I expect that to continue over the years.
Eileen Pruett ’81
Manager, Small Claims Division and Dispute Resolution Department, Franklin County Municipal Court
Manager, Franklin County Foreclosure Mediation Project
On the job, I: work with constituents, judges, and magistrates to find appropriate opportunities for mediation.
How I got this job: As the first coordinator for dispute resolution programs at the Supreme Court of Ohio, I helped courts develop, implement, and sustain mediation programs for every level of courts. When I shared my vision for enhanced mediation programs and opportunities with the 15 judges of the Franklin County Municipal Court, the court employed me to expand the mediation services we provide for citizens of Franklin County.
How I use my J.D.: I work as an advocate to promote the benefits of dispute resolution processes to the public and the court. I also mediate cases for the municipal court and the federal court for the Southern District of Ohio. I have also mediated cases for the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Government Conflict Resolution Service.
The most interesting case of my career: In every case it is fascinating to see parties shift from positional (win-lose) bargaining to interest-based negotiation that may help them craft a creative resolution that meets the needs of all parties. Mediating between elected officials is very interesting. In a recent case, the local press attended the mediation session, as did a number of critical stakeholders who were not initially named as parties.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: When I began my work as a mediator more than 30 years ago, the goal was to have parties think of calling a mediator before or at the same time they called an attorney. Now I think that if, in 10 years, attorneys truly understand that their roles in mediation are as counsel rather than advocates, we will see more disputes in mediation earlier in the case and with less expense – both financial and emotional – for the parties.
Nathan Witkin ’08
Alliance of Co-Resolution Professionals
On the job, I: conduct trainings, organize practice groups, run pilot projects, speak at conferences, and write articles about the dispute resolution processes.
How I got this job: I submitted papers describing my dispute resolution inventions to academic journals and began speaking about them at events ranging from local info sessions to national and international conferences. My favorite idea – a system of cooperative advocacy and negotiation coaching called “co-resolution” – has a growing following in Columbus.
How I use my J.D.: Like many attorneys who attempt to make the world a better place by starting their own dispute resolution service, I pay the bills with legal work, litigating custody disputes, and defending felons.
The most interesting case of my career: In a recent coresolution conducted over a custody dispute, the parties predicted the likelihood of resolution at 0/10 at the beginning of the process, but were exchanging offers of parenting time by the end of the first session.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: Though it started the ADR movement, mediation is limited by impartiality and some experts see a resulting stagnation in the field. Thus, processes such as co-resolution and collaborative law, which allow dispute resolution professionals to be actively involved in the negotiation, may be on the rise.
Mike Cummings ’13
State Hearing Officer
Bureau of State Hearings for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
On the job, I: preside over hearings and write decisions. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) oversees a variety of programs that administer state aid to Ohio residents. I listen to testimony from all parties and ask questions in order to fully develop the record of the particular case so that I can write an informed decision that will decide the individual’s appeal. In many ways, I play a role similar to an arbitrator. I also act as a lead mediator in a new program to settle cases related to adoption assistance.
How I got this job: I began working at the Bureau of State Hearings as an intern in the summer of 2012. I continued working there throughout my final year of law school and the following summer and became a hearing officer once I was officially accepted into the Ohio Bar.
How I use my J.D.: I use my J.D. in nearly all essential aspects of my job. Primarily in mediation and in hearings, I use many of the skills and theories learned in my wide variety of ADR classes. I also am able to more efficiently write decisions and evaluate legal policy from time spent writing briefs and learning through case law.
The most interesting case of my career: My favorite cases are the ones involving adoption assistance. When we successfully mediate an adoption assistance case, the agency is happy to reach settlement and place another child in a home; the parents are happy and relieved the process is over and they can officially accept the child into their home; my department is happy because it avoids potential rounds of hearings, and it saves everyone time and money (including taxpayers!).
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: Existing processes for solving disputes in our government offices are essential and provide crucial access to justice for many citizens, but there is great value in recognizing that not every dispute is best solved by one process alone. I expect many state offices will explore finding alternative means of dispute resolution, like mediation, to help efficiently and equitably solve their disputes in a manner which is more beneficial to citizens and cost-effective.
Stephen P. Anway ’02
Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP
New York City, New York
On the job, I: I represent clients in major international arbitrations, in sovereign nations (Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Ecuador), in investment-treaty arbitration, and multinational corporations in major international commercial arbitration. As part of that counsel work, I have worked in 21 countries and have represented clients in some 50 international arbitration proceedings, including arbitrations brought under more than 10 different investment treaties, free-trade agreements, and the Energy Charter Treaty.
How I got this job: I was hired as a summer associate by Squire Patton Boggs after my first year of law school and for a second summer. I accepted a two-year clerkship with the late Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer of the Supreme Court of Ohio. After completing the clerkship, I returned to Squire and have been there ever since.
How I use my J.D.: In my field, a J.D. is required and I use my J.D. in everything I do.
The most interesting case of my career: I represented the Czech Republic in an investment-treaty arbitration case as a mid-level associate. We quickly identified it as a potential “game-changing” case and briefed novel issues of international law regarding when and under what circumstances foreign investors could restructure their investments for the purpose of “treaty shopping.” I argued the case as lead counsel before the international tribunal in Paris, which issued its decision and ruled 100 percent in our client’s favor. It is now one of the most cited international law cases in the world.
Where I see the field of mediation international dispute resolution headed in 10 years: As trade and commerce continues to become increasingly global, I believe international arbitration will only continue to grow over the next 10 years. Mediation (at least of commercial disputes) has not been used as frequently internationally as it has domestically, but there is reason for optimism and growth. Mediation could possibly be “the next big thing” in international commercial dispute resolution.
Niki Z. Schwartz ’64
Schwartz Downey & Co. LPA
On the job, I: litigate criminal and civil cases, and mediate all kinds of cases.
How I got this job: My mediation career was jump-started as a result of being asked by the Ohio Department of Corrections to come to the 1993 Lucasville prison riot to represent the rioting inmates. When the riot ended two days after I became involved with the prisoners surrendering and releasing their five hostages without further harm, the media gave me all the credit. The world concluded that if I could settle a prison riot, I could settle anything.
How I have used my J.D.: Initially, as a law professor at the University of Toledo, and then in the private practice of law and mediation in Cleveland from 1968 to the present.
The most interesting case of my career: My favorite mediation case was the breakup of the Cincinnati Health Alliance, in which the major hospitals of Cincinnati had formed a joint venture, and upon its breakup had multitudinous disputes over who got what, who owed what, and who had what obligations going forward. Everybody hated everybody, and there were hundreds of millions of dollars in dispute. After five trips to Cincinnati and 13 days of mediation over several months, we finally got it settled.
Where I see the field of mediation headed in 10 years: My crystal ball is not that clear, but there’s every reason to believe that the current trend of substituting mediations for trials will accelerate (indeed my fellow Fellows in the American College of Trial Lawyers regularly lament the “vanishing trial”).