NH Alternative Dispute Resolution Alliance Hosts Symposium

NH Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick was the keynote speaker for a Symposium on the Future of Alternative Dispute Resolution in NH, hosted by  the Alternative Dispute Resolution Alliance on June 9, 2010. NH divorce Attorney Kim Weibrecht has been a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Alliance since 2009.

Sponsored by three partner organizations – the New Hampshire Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section, the New Hampshire Conflict Resolution Association, and the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Office of Mediation and Arbitration – the ADR Alliance is advised by a 12-member committee that includes Chief Justice Broderick; Jim Roche, President of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association; Dr. Oglesby Young, former President of the New Hampshire Medical Society; John Hutson, President of the Franklin Pierce Law Center; and Lela Love, Professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.The symposium was the Alliance’s first public forum and it gathered interested professionals to consider the future of ADR in NH. A significant number of ADR professionals and participants attended the Symposium and heard presentations from eight speakers on the many faces of ADR. The Symposium also included small-group brainstorming sessions to foster discussions on more coordinated development of ADR in New Hampshire.

Symposium speakers included:

  • Tammy Lenski, a national conflict management consultant, who discussed the types and numbers of disputes settled by agreement outside the legal system.
  • Ellen Arnold, NHBA past president and a member of the legal department at Dartmouth College, who conveyed the enthusiasm of the NHBA Board of Governors for the Alliance.
  • Roche, who focused on how critical a well-functioning ADR system is to a healthy and inviting business climate.
  • And a recently-divorced father who used divorce mediation and confirmed the many benefits of mediation in the family setting, including the lower cost and reduced animosity between co-parents.

Chief Justice Broderick stressed the need for more and better ADR options noting that it was a “sad truth” that courts around the country were “understaffed and undervalued” as well as falling behind in technology. He said the number of self-represented parties was growing exponentially and that in 70 percent of family cases, at least one side did not have an attorney. In a ringing endorsement of mediation, Broderick said: “If ADR did not exist, the system would be truly broken.” As evidence of the success of ADR in the courts, he noted that 80 percent of the small claims mediated were settled, and the settlements honored. From the Chief Justice’s standpoint, “every case settled in mediation is a success.”

The Symposium also featured small group breakout discussions to recap presentations and generate ideas for potential future steps. The feedback provided from participants was captured by note-takers. Attendees and speakers echoed concerns that the public is unaware of their options for resolving disputes, and confirmed the lack of communication and interaction among ADR sectors and professionals.

The ADR Alliance continues its work on both long and short-term goals and has had several meetings since the Symposium. The ADR Alliance has committed to the short-term goal of creating a website that will provide a clearinghouse for the public regarding ADR options in New Hampshire and also serve the ADR community as a professional resource for information exchange and networking.

Material used in this post was originally published in the NH Bar Association News.