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Arbitrator finds passion, role in shaping labor law
Jacquelin Drucker ’81 finished a labor arbitration hearing in New York City and jumped into a taxi to catch her flight at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. She flew to Atlanta to arbitrate an employment dispute the following day and then headed back north to Syracuse, N.Y. to hear a case involving disciplinary action at a university.
A hectic couple days but nothing out of the ordinary for Drucker, an arbitrator based in New York City. On a given year, she works in about 20 states, not including work she does in the Caribbean, Virgin Islands, and Panama.
“I love the work,” she said. “It’s important and intellectually challenging; it’s endlessly fascinating; and there is beauty in the rhythm, the structure, and the balance of the arbitration process itself.”
Even though Drucker knew she had a passion for employment and labor law, she never anticipated working full-time as an arbitrator while she was a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
She since has worked with the Ohio Legislature on collective bargaining legislation, worked for the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, for a management-side law firm, and also for the United Automobile Workers.
Drucker, a Celina, Ohio native, played a big role in shaping labor law in her home state.
While Drucker was practicing law, Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste asked her to help set up the state employment relations board. She also wrote a book, called Collective Bargaining Law in Ohio, which was cited in several Ohio Supreme Court decisions and was long considered by some, she said, to be “the definitive book on Ohio collective bargaining law.”
Drucker moved to the Big Apple in 1990 when she married her New Yorker husband, John, who is also an attorney and works as a mediator. It was then that she decided to open her own arbitration firm. There aren’t many lawyers who are able to base an entire practice on arbitration, but because of Drucker’s depth of experience in the field and the satisfaction she had found in working as a neutral with the employment relations board, she thought she’d give it a try. She continued to work a lot in Ohio and expanded to New York and across the country.
“I think everyone worries when starting a practice as a neutral,” she said. “They say it usually takes three years before you know if you’ll be able to make it into a career. In my case I was very lucky. Before I knew it, I was actually turning down cases. There are only so many days in a month.”
For an arbitrator, nothing is more important than reputation, which Drucker said is built on deciding cases by the facts and law alone. Codes of ethics used to prohibit arbitrators from advertising. Though that restriction has since changed, Drucker still sticks to it, preferring that her reputation travel by recommendations and word of mouth.
The strategy certainly worked for her, and she is recognized as a leader in the field. She has spent the past 20 years on the extension faculty at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Cornell’s Schienman Institute on Conflict Resolution. She also sits on the board of directors of the American Arbitration Association.
When she has free time, she enjoys skiing or sailing with her husband and exploring the rich art culture in New York City. Regular pilates sessions keep her fit.
Though she hasn’t returned to Moritz in some time, she still looks back at her experience with fond memories.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I loved the intellectual challenge and the academic rigors of the legal education. And the professors sparked a lifelong passion for labor and employment law, evidence, and constitutional law. ”
Article by Michael Periatt