2014 has been an extremely interesting and productive year so far. January 2014 brought chairmanship of the Virginia statewide bar associations’ Joint ADR (JADR) Committee. That has given me an opportunity to work with business people and lawyers about their approaches to problem resolution. I can report that organizations and individuals in dispute are hungry for less costly ways to deal with the almost-inevitable conflict. This is not nirvana or wishful thinking but is pragmatic, business-like, hopeful thinking. Lawyers in Virginia are open to examining how they practice ADR and how they can continue to refine practice approaches. We are working to create some forums in Virginia to occur in January 2015 where discussion among lawyers will take place with a nationally renowned leader at the helm.
This coincides with an excellent discussion by DuPont General Counsel, David H. Burt, in the American Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Magazine (Spring 2014) about the DuPont ADR program. Its impressive program is designed to encourage a “sustainable ADR culture.”
Jane Conard and I have promoted what we call a “culture of conflict competence in healthcare facilities” for many years; our presentations and training sessions on the subject as well as consulting with health facilities continue. In addition to the American Bar Association March webinar on conflict management in healthcare that we presented along with Jamie Baskerville-Martin, the ABA has formed a task force involving its dispute resolution section and its health law section to focus on the subject. Professor Charity Scott is instrumental in that initiative.
In April, the American Health Lawyers Association launched its significantly revamped Dispute Resolution Service offering arbitration, mediation and hearing officer services in health care, as well as conflict management training. The new service is accessible, reducing or completely eliminating costly upfront fees, and it boasts an electronic case management system as well as panels of extremly knowledgeable neutrals experienced in the healthcare world. As a task force (now called council) member, I was involved in the rules’ revisions unerlying the revamping of the service.
This summer, The Virginia Bar Association presented the William B. Spong Jr. Professionalism award to me for demonstrated leadership in the profession and in the community. It was overwhelming and humbling because of its namesake, William B. Spong (the kind of leader that we need more of in public life). He was not a celebrity but was a WWII hero (bomber fighter pilot), who later served in the US Congress, the Virginia legislature, as Dean of William and Mary Law School, and as private practitioner. He mediated the Dalkon Shield cases, and was instrumental in changing opinion in Virginia to work toward desegregation and place Virginia educational policy on sounder footing. He enjoyed making things work for the betterment of others and was good at it, while being a collegial, pleasant professional. It is inspiring to try to follow his example.
The next few months of 2014 will continue to be filled with valuable work. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your comments and ideas, and to ask about your projects.