Briefing Room


Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution Celebrates 25th Anniversary

April 5, 2011 | Students

When Marcia Egbert ’85 and James Demetry ’85 began tip-toeing through the steps necessary to create a second academic journal at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 1984, they knew it would be a considerable amount of work.

In hindsight, both admitted they could not have fathomed how much work it actually took to launch the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution.

As the journal was taking shape, Egbert and Demetry simply wished it would become a viable and successful academic publication.

This school year, the journal’s 25th anniversary, neither Egbert nor Demetry could have fathomed the publication’s incredible success.

In its first 25 years, OSJDR has expanded from two issues to four, nearly tripled its staff, become the official journal of the American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution, garnered numerous awards, helped catapult the College’s dispute resolution program to prestige, and taught countless lessons to countless Moritz graduates.

“We all had a great respect for the law review, but we really felt that the school would benefit from having more than one journal,” said Egbert, who along with Demetry were the two founding editors-in-chief of the OSJDR. “We had a very activist class and there was a group of us who decided to try and make it happen.”

During the 1983-84 school year, a group of students began researching what it would take to start a second journal at the College. Since the Ohio State Law Journal was founded in 1935, it had remained the College’s sole journal.

“It was a very good experience,” said Demetry, now chief of staff of Manheim, the world’s largest vehicle auction company. “It was people coming together saying they wanted to accomplish something and then all of us coming together and making it happen. Going through something like that allowed me to learn many lessons that have served me well in my career.”

Both Egbert and Demetry said they vividly remember that then-Dean James E. Meeks, now an emeritus professor of law at the College, was both supportive and demanding when they approached him about starting a new journal. “I don’t know if he thought that we were crazy, but he was so respectful and so open,” said Egbert, who is the senior program officer for human services at the George Gund Foundation in Cleveland. “He put up some very understandable hurdles for us to clear. He and the other administrators had to know that we were serious. I remember coming out of the first conversation with him and thinking ‘wow, he had really taken us seriously. He really treated us like grown ups.’”

Egbert, Demetry, and a growing group of classmates began exploring the seemingly endless topics on which the journal could focus. The journal organizers were primarily interested in finding a niche journal that would specialize in a particular area of law.

“We started looking around to other law schools to see what their secondary law journals were doing,” Demetry said. “We wanted to find a topic that would be a little different, one in which we could fairly quickly carve out a space for ourselves.”

Dispute resolution, which was a legal area that was in its infancy on many levels at the time, arose in discussions thanks in part to the College’s professors who were focusing their legal research in the area. Professor Nancy Rogers, one of the original advisors to the journal and again an advisor today, said that she remembered students approaching Professor Charles Wilson and her about starting a journal covering the emerging area of dispute resolution.

“I told them that I thought it was a fantastic idea,” Rogers said. “There were many interesting legal questions related to the field at that time.”

The journal’s founding editors said that the decision to pursue dispute resolution was paramount to the journal’s success. “It became such a great journal topic because it allowed Ohio State to carve out that space that wasn’t already occupied by anyone else,” Demetry said. “We were able to make a name for the journal.”

Dean Meeks also – in an effort to gauge the students’ commitment to the endeavor – required that the staff raise at least a portion of the money necessary to print the journal in its first year. Potential staff members began soliciting professionals around Columbus and the state for funds to cover the cost of printing the first journal. They looked for organizations and foundations that they felt would benefit from research in alternative dispute resolution. The College’s faculty helped put students in contact with people and groups from around the country that also assisted. In all, students raised more than $10,000.

But the solicitations didn’t stop with raising funds. The organizers also needed a staff, scholarly article submissions, and a printer.

Eventually a core group of editors were selected, and the group chose to host a summer writing competition similar to that of the Ohio State Law Journal.

“We had to pitch to students just as much as we had to pitch to administration,” Egbert said. “I remember some students who wanted us to prove that it was serious. They didn’t want to be part of something that wasn’t going to be high quality. We seemed to show them that we were serious.”

The College’s newest journal received more applications than the editors expected, and they were forced to turn some students away. The journal’s 1984-85 staff was comprised of 28 students. The 2010-11 staff includes about 70.

The first issue published submissions from a U.S. District Court judge, a director of the American Bar Association’s Special Committee on Dispute Resolution, the president for the Center of Public Resources, and partners focusing on alternative dispute resolution from law firms across the country. As a testament to the versatility of a journal focused on alternative dispute resolution, articles and commentaries focused – as they continued to for the next 25 years – on how the dispute resolution techniques could be applied across differing legal fields. In the first issue, submissions covered everything from environmental disputes to mediation in special education.

“Students and faculty not only had to sell authors on writing for the journal, but also had to supply the bait – how they could focus on an innovative topic that brought together ADR and their fields,” Rogers said.

With each passing publication, the journal gained increased respect. Before long, article submissions began to arrive unsolicited to the journal office.

“My volume was probably the first to actually receive some unsolicited submissions without a whole lot of effort on our part,” said John W. Hopper ’90, 1989-90 editor-in-chief. The journal now receives about 500 annually unsolicited submissions from experts around the world.

Hopper, now a partner at Silverstone Advisors in Cincinnati, recalled sharing a work space with the Ohio State Law Journal that was between the two journals’ offices. Whichever journal was busier at the time would have access to the middle space. The shared work area still has a special meaning to Hopper.

“That was actually the place where I ended up spending and getting to know my future wife, who was working on the law journal at the time,” he said. “That’s where I asked her out on our first date.” Hopper and Diane Boniface Hopper ’90 are still happily married and living in Cincinnati.

The OSJDR was one of two journals nationally dedicated to the field at its inception. There currently are about half a dozen journals following the topic. However, in 1994, OSJDR became the official journal of the American Bar Association’s Section on Dispute Resolution and for a time each issue was distributed to the section’s members.

“The really big thing for me is the camaraderie that you experience with other students working in those close quarters,” said Karen (Frees) Race ’96, who was the 1995-96 editor-in-chief, and is now semi-retired from The Ohio State University. “The fastidiousness of the editing process is very trying and very uniting. We all formed a camaraderie that we wouldn’t have had if we weren’t involved.”

Just as the journal has grown, so has the College’s Program on Alternative Dispute Resolution. The journal advanced when the College began offering a certificate in alternative dispute resolution, and students on the journal also have the opportunity to host the annual Schwartz Lecture in Dispute Resolution.

Julie (Folger) Woolley ’03 was the first editor-in-chief of OSJDR to graduate with a certificate in dispute resolution. Woolley complimented how supportive the faculty were to the journal. “Professors Cole and Stulberg were the two advisors at the time and they were great about offering insight on the articles. They would stop by the office and make sure everything was all right. I can’t forget how much of an advocate then-Dean Rogers was.”

That teamwork has paid off. Over the past 25 years, OSJDR has garnered 20 awards for student or professional articles printed in the journal from the prestigious International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution. Amber Lea Merl ’06 said that the journal’s success could also be attributed to its work environment.

“When we would get to the end of the work phase and almost to the reward … people were really having a lot of fun,” said Merl, who is now an associate at Jones Day in Columbus. “We worked hard and were excited and passionate about what we were doing. People thought that what they contributed to the journal made a difference and that made it a really great place to work.”

Rogers said that each of the journal’s past staff members should find pleasure in what has become of the journal.

“If not for the Journal on Dispute Resolution, would this field of law have developed as well as it has? I don’t think it would have. This journal has brought some of the best thinkers and scholars together to discuss what should be the direction of this new field. Each of the journal’s past members and the College should be immensely proud of that success.”