Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Professor Sarah R. Cole Honored as Squire, Sanders & Dempsey Designated Professor

Cole family
Professor Sarah Cole with husband Doug Cole (former professor and current Ohio State Solicitor) and sons Joshua and Samuel

Professor Sarah Cole's selection as Squire, Sanders & Dempsey Designated Professor was announced in June. She became interested in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) while in law school at the University of Chicago, when her journal published an issue on ADR--then an emerging phenomenon. “I thought it amazing that so many people used arbitration and mediation in order to avoid the courts,” Sarah says. “But, I learned that as these mechanisms became popular, parties began to misuse the processes to gain advantages. As a result, the court system became more involved in regulating their use. So, I started examining the interrelationship between the courts and dispute resolution and, fortunately, that has kept me very busy ever since.”

What makes the Moritz College’s ADR program unique? For one, says Sarah, the faculty engagement, “Our main competitors focus on LL.M. students rather than law students, and regularly use adjunct professors to teach ADR classes. At Moritz, we commit full-time faculty to both the study and teaching of dispute resolution processes, such as mediation and arbitration. Our students are taught by people who are fully engaged both as scholars in the field and as teachers.”

During the seven years that it has been offered to students, the ADR certificate program has grown at a rapid rate. “We imagined that we’d see interest from 5 to 10 students each year,” Sarah notes. “Instead, we’ve seen a much stronger demand. This year’s class is the largest ever, with 29 students receiving certificates at graduation.” Moritz’ program has been among the top four in the country since U.S. News & World Report began ranking ADR programs.

In addition to Sarah, ADR faculty members include Program Director Joseph B. “Josh” Stulberg, Professor Amy Cohen, Professor Ellen Deason, Professor Christopher Fairman, Professor John Quigley, Professor Charlie Wilson and Dean Nancy Rogers. To meet increasing demand from students, this core group has expanded mediation practicum offerings to three sections for next year, and has raised the maximum number of participants for the negotiation class.

“Students enjoy mediating disputes,” Sarah says. “They see mediation used frequently in the courts now, and feel the need to be prepared.” In the mediation practicum that Sarah runs with the help of clinical professors Amy Cohen and Carole Hinchcliff, students train to be mediators at the Franklin County (Ohio) Municipal Court. On Thursday nights, students mediate disputes before they are filed. These "pre-filing" cases settle at a high rate, resulting in fewer court appearances. Students also participate in day-of-court mediations, when judges decide to send some cases to mediation rather than a hearing. Students help the court achieve a 50-60% settlement rate.

Sarah’s focus area is arbitration. Traditionally used in relationships in which the power is fairly evenly balanced between the parties, arbitration is now being widely used in the non-union sector in disputes between employers and employees. In some companies, employees must agree to binding arbitration in their employment contracts. That can be tricky because, Sarah explains, “In these situations the employer generally has much more power in the relationship than the employee, and can skew the process in their favor.” Such controversy provides ample fodder for Sarah’s writing and teaching.

Drawing on her previous experience mediating in federal courts and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sarah serves as co-author for the leading treatise in the field, Mediation: Law, Policy and Practice (2d. ed. 1994), with Dean Nancy H. Rogers and Bowdoin Dean Craig McEwen. The treatise is updated annually with new law and policy developments in mediation. She has also partnered with Dean Rogers as a co-author for Dispute Resolution: Negotiation, Mediation and Other Processes (4th. ed. 2003), one of the leading ADR casebooks in the country.

That Squire, Sanders & Dempsey chose to honor her teaching and scholarship with a designated professor gift is a true honor for Sarah. Designated professorships are designed to provide recognition and enhance financial support to outstanding scholars, which helps Moritz Law retain promising mid-level professors, many of whom are routinely approached by other law schools. “The firm has an outstanding national reputation,” she says proudly. “They hire terrific top students--many of my favorite students have gone on to work for Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. It’s a privilege to have my name associated with theirs.”

The firm is equally happy with its choice. Managing Partner Alex Shumate says, “We believe this is a great opportunity to support the Moritz College of Law by helping it retain top quality faculty members, while making an important statement about the role of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in promoting excellence in the legal profession.”

After spending time in a labor and employment law practice, Sarah taught torts and dispute resolution early in her teaching career, beginning at Creighton University. After a year of teaching at Oklahoma, Sarah arrived at the Moritz College of Law in 1998, thanks to an OSU enrichment grant given to the College to hire ADR faculty. Sarah feels lucky to have come to Ohio State, and considers Columbus a great place to work and to raise a family. The Moritz family is lucky to have her.