Category Archives: Tech and Business Tips for Mediators

Buying the cow: mediators, money, and value

During the many years now I’ve been in the mediation field I like to think I’ve given of my time generously on behalf of our profession.

I’ve devoted countless unpaid hours to serving on numerous boards and committees to advance the ADR field; organizing numerous conferences and workshops for mediators; volunteering in community mediation programs mediating and mentoring new mediators; answering numerous phone calls and emails from people hoping to become mediators; providing tech support to colleagues struggling with ethical dilemmas; helping other ADR professionals master social media like Twitter; supporting fellow ADR bloggers through my ADRblogs.com project and other endeavors; and sharing what I know through this site, responding to every person who contacts me, including numerous requests over the years from mediators and mediation programs throughout the world seeking help locating resources, people, or information.

My digital door is always open.

But ultimately I’m a business owner and a professional, and there are things I don’t give away for free. Once, a mediator, just starting off, contacted me to ask me to meet them and their business partner on a regular basis to help them set up their business and web site. When I quoted my fee, I got an angry email in response, wondering how I had the nerve to ask to get paid for something they thought I should give them for nothing. This left me scratching my head, wondering why they didn’t respect or value my time as a professional.

I similarly upset some mediators in an advanced mediation training that I taught recently. The organization I was teaching for had provided a comprehensive training manual packed full of many practice forms for the participants to use later. As I was teaching one module, I mentioned that what I’d done in my own practice for this kind of case was to develop a handbook for my clients to assist them in preparing to mediate, suggesting to the participants that they should do the same. One participant raised a hand to ask if I would make my handbook available to them. I told them no, it was proprietary to me and my business, but that they should by all means create materials of their own that would serve them and their clients. I also reminded them that the organization providing the training had generously included in the training manual plenty of client forms for them to use and adapt.

My “no” evidently put some people off. Two participants complained about my refusal to share materials I’d created for my own business. One wondered why I was even there if I didn’t want to share my stuff.

This left me puzzled and a little sad as well.  I was in fact very willing to share – everything I know, the experiences I’ve had, the lessons I’ve learned, it was all available to them, unstintingly. I just declined to share my intellectual property – the content I’d created and customized to use in my business – the work product to distinguish me from the rest of the herd.

Unfortunately they heard only the “no”, and not the rest of my message: As a professional be willing to create your own stuff. Construct your own tools, the better to fit your hand.

Perhaps this view is just a consequence of living in the digital age, when we have come to expect content to be free and where the lines between original content and borrowed material have grown blurred. Surely no one could think that my appearance at the training program constituted a relinquishment of my rights in my own content or the keys to my office door.

But there’s another reason, an issue that haunts our profession. Almost four years ago I sent a message to ADR professionals: “Don’t sell yourself short: why fair compensation should matter to mediators.”

This post urged mediators to value themselves and each other more highly; too often we give both the milk and the entire cow away for free. In our negotiation with the larger world, we ourselves must start placing greater value on our work. To do otherwise diminishes our worth.

To be sure, ours is a profession devoted to helping others. It rests on certain important principles: value creation not value claiming; the notion of the ever-expanding pie; creative allocation of resources; and of course collaboration, teamwork, and sharing. These are noble principles to be sure, embodying the highest aspirations of our field.

This is perhaps why some of us are uncomfortable with professional self-regard. It seems to contradict these cherished ideals.

But just because we place a premium on collaboration does not mean that we must refrain from placing a premium on our services or the content we create as business owners.  As usual, the toughest negotiation is always with ourselves.

Play it smart and safe: web-savvy tips for the ADR professional

The following is adapted from an article I wrote for the Spring 2010 issue of the newsletter of the Association for Conflict Resolution’s New England Chapter. My colleague Tammy Lenski and I were invited to offer our best advice to ADR professionals seeking to make the most of the web. Tammy’s article, “Top 10 tips for using social media in your ADR marketing plan“, which she has republished on her site Making Mediation Your Day Job, focuses on smart social media strategies. Mine looks at ways to play it safe in your online life to protect yourself in the real world. Thanks to abundantly patient and discerning editor Louisa Williams for all her hard work in bringing these articles to press.

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“Have hot sex longer.” That’s not advice from Dr. Ruth Westheimer. That was the surprising private message (edited so as not to offend readers) I received from a contact on Twitter – a respected professional with a reputation to safeguard. Luckily for him, I did not take offense. I immediately realized what had happened: a digital vandal had hijacked his Twitter account.

As so many of us increasingly rely on the internet to communicate, transact business, and network, these kinds of incidents become more common. Fortunately, there are ways to be both safe and smart. Two categories of must-have protection can secure your online life: protecting your data and protecting yourself.

Data protection

Data protection involves two steps: securing your files and your online accounts from unauthorized access; and backing up your hard drive and your online accounts in the event of software or hardware failure.

Following the hack of a popular web site, a data security firm analyzed user passwords to generate a list of the worst offenders, proving that far too many people use “123456” or “iloveyou” as easy-to-guess passwords.  According to the firm’s CEO, “with only minimal effort, a hacker can gain access to one new account every second – or 1,000 accounts every 17 minutes.” Those are sobering figures.

To protect your (and your clients’) data, replace easy-to-guess passwords with unguessable ones. Online security experts recommend using combinations of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters (such as ^, %, or *) to make it tougher for wrongdoers to access your accounts. Changing passwords regularly is also good practice – and mandatory if you believe an account has been compromised. It goes without saying that if you write down your password, keep that paper separate from your desktop or laptop, concealed from prying eyes. Also avoid using the same password and user name across numerous sites; hackers count on you to make that mistake. The challenge, of course, with having strong, multiple passwords is remembering them; you can find some great tips on the site WikiHow on “How to Create a Password You Can Remember“).

When it comes to digital data, Murphy’s Law applies: if something can go wrong, it will. Your hard drive crashes, a thief nicks your laptop, or a hacker targets your site. When it comes to readiness for such events, prepare as if disaster will strike. Make a list of all the online accounts and web sites you have. Then go through that list and ensure you have back-ups of everything you care about. Have a plan in place and everything you need organized and at hand so that if the unthinkable happens, you’ll be ready. Last summer, this is what kept my own brush with hackers who vandalized my blog from being an unmitigated disaster.

Back-ups aren’t just for web sites, by the way. You can back up your contacts and profile information on LinkedIn, or information on social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. Of course, in addition to your online accounts, remember to back up your hard drive. The most cautious among us rely on external hard drives and flash drives, as well as online backup service, so that if anything happens to your physical equipment, your data remains safe on the web. Choices for online backups include Mozy, Syncplicity, and Carbonite, which work for both PCs and Macs.

Protecting yourself

The authors of negotiation classic Getting to Yes warn negotiators to “be trustworthy, not trusting.” The same wisdom applies to negotiating the web and your online relationships.

To protect a hacker from hijacking your online accounts, be careful where you click. Phishing scams abound on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. The misuse of URL shorteners such as bit.ly or tinyurl.com contribute to the problem. URL shorteners are great for reducing long URLs for quick copying into email messages or posting in online forums. For example, for a link to an article by Leonard Riskin on his famous Grid, I turned the unwieldy

http://www.gevim.co.il/image/users/89301/ftp/my_files/pdf/Grid.pdf

into

http://tinyurl.com/riskingrid.

But URL shorteners can also be misused by hackers to conceal the true identity of malicious sites. In the case of the poor professional whose Twitter account was hijacked, he made the mistake of clicking on a link he assumed was safe, allowing a scoundrel to gain control of his account and send offensive messages under his name. Before you click, use tools such as LongURL to reveal the actual site and protect your reputation. As one expert on online security warns, “Never assume a link is safe just because a friend sent it to you”.

Protecting your personal property and physical safety is important, too. People routinely announce their locations or vacation plans to their followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter, unwittingly signaling to web-savvy thieves their absence from home. One site, the pointedly named PleaseRobMe.com, monitors Twitter for such updates. Take care as well using sites such as TripIt, which allow you to share your travel itinerary with your contacts on networking sites – which is fine if you trust and know every one of them well (although read on, please, before you say yes).

The internet enables us to network easily. It’s human nature to be flattered when someone invites us to join their network or be “friends.” But too many people promiscuously accept invitations to connect, as I learned first-hand. I recently inventoried my own list of contacts on a popular professional networking site, conducting some online detective work on the ones I didn’t know that well. To my dismay, I discovered people stripped of professional licenses and one convicted felon, proving the enduring truth in the old aphorism “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

The moral of the story: before accepting any invitation to connect, be sure you know whom you’re dealing with. This is particularly true with the business networking site LinkedIn, which urges users to remember that what counts is “the quality of the connections and not … the quantity of connections.” Ask yourself, would the person inviting you to connect be someone you’d be willing to recommend to others? If not, then decline the connection. ADR folks tend to be nice people committed to getting to yes, but don’t let your good nature get you into trouble. Just say no.

The best we can do is to welcome the opportunity to connect with others but remember to conduct our due diligence. As a former US president purportedly once said, “Trust, but verify.”

Blog responsibly: a public service reminder for dispute resolution bloggers

I’ve been blogging about dispute resolution for over 5 years now. When I first launched my blog, you could count ADR blogs in single digits. You can still find these early adopters online – folks like my predecessors, blogging role models Bill Warters, Colin Rule, and Tammy Lenski – who continue to produce worthwhile content.

Slowly at first, then more steadily, our numbers grew. I soon began tracking them, eventually launching ADRblogs.com, which catalogs blogs from around the globe, organizing them by country and by topic. I’ve been serving as the unofficial taxonomist of the dispute resolution blogosphere since June 2006. ADRblogs.com today lists over 230 blogs from 31 countries, all discussing conflict resolution, negotiation, or various forms of ADR.

During 5 years of blogging and almost 4 years of tracking blogs, I’ve seen ADR bloggers come and go. Some, like Geoff Sharp’s iconoclastic Mediator Blah…Blah…, which flared and burned brightly for far too short a time, I miss a great deal. I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting which ones will have staying power, and which ones will quietly (and deservedly) fade into obscurity.

Which do you want your blog to be? If the former, it’s pretty simple. There are really only three things you need to remember:

  1. Create good content.
  2. Be social.
  3. Don’t plagiarize.

I will amplify on each briefly:

1. Create good content.

Write about what you love and know well. Share information useful to your audience. Make your readers think, change their minds, or even laugh. Don’t just copy and paste content or news you found elsewhere; tell your readers what you think about it. Be of help.

2. Be social.

I’ve said this before: ADR is fundamentally about conversation. So is blogging. If you, an ADR professional who blogs, aren’t going to link to other blogs and participate in the conversation online, why are you blogging? My old friend Geoff Sharp in an email to me once called it “the paradox of blogging” – you confidently send readers away to other sites to encourage them to return. If you want your blog to sink below the surface of search engine results, then don’t link. It’s that simple. By the way, linking is just one way to converse – remember to comment on other blogs. Contribute to the discussion.

3. Don’t plagiarize.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but unfortunately some folks are still not getting the message. If you use another blogger’s content as a source or inspiration for your writing, give them credit by a) naming the blogger; b) identifying their blog; and c) linking back to their post. Do not pass off someone else’s content or ideas as your own. The best ADR bloggers I know care about their writing, putting time, thought, energy, and, yes, heart into their posts. For me personally, blogging is an expression of my identity as lawyer, mediator, and writer; it is my own voice speaking out of these ones and zeros. Use your own voice, please, when you blog, not someone else’s. (While ADR bloggers are generally nice folks, some of us won’t hesitate to use our BATNA: filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act infringement notification.)

Looking for role models? The following are but a few examples of bloggers who make the ADR blogosphere a great neighborhood to hang out in, consistently honoring these principles:

By the way, in the spirit of neighborliness, allow me to extend a very warm welcome to these promising new additions to ADRblogs.com:

Beware of the app: a warning to ADR bloggers and their readers on Facebook

Numerous news articles and blog posts have commented on the dark side of Facebook – its disregard for users’ privacy, the opportunities it affords for cyberbullying, and its vulnerability to spam, phishing exploits and malware.

I’d like to alert my readers, particularly those of you who blog, about a Facebook trap to avoid.

I regularly check search engines for mention of me or my blog, something that all of us should do routinely, not as an exercise in egotism but as good business sense, as my colleague Tammy Lenski has written.

During a search yesterday on Google I learned that Mediation Channel was listed as one of the “NetworkedBlogs on Facebook“. I clicked on the page to learn more, since I hadn’t requested the listing. A link on the page read “Pending confirmation. Help us confirm the author.” When I clicked on the link, the following choices appeared:

How do you like to verify ownership of ‘Mediation Channel’?
- Ask friends to verify you (easy, but takes a little time)

- Use our widget to verify ownership (instant, but some technical skills required)

Hmmm. Sites that enable you to claim ownership of your blog -– for example Google Analytics, which analyzes web traffic — typically require you to enter a specific snippet of code on your site, something only you as the site owner with administrative access would be able to do. It’s the sensible and secure way to confirm blog ownership.

The NetworkedBlogs app on Facebook, on the other hand, amazingly allows anybody to verify that they own a blog, whether they actually own the blog or not, by asking a handful of their Facebook friends to vouch for them. Basically anyone could claim ownership of my blog, or yours, for purposes of NetworkedBlogs on Facebook. That’s just nuts.

How nuts? Very: I decided to test what would happen if I asked a Facebook friend to verify. I clicked on “Ask friends to verify”, and then, when my friends’ profile pictures appeared, I selected my dog’s Facebook profile (yes, he has one – doesn’t yours?). My dog is a good sport in that way and a willing participant in these kinds of web experiments.

NetworkedBlogs promptly sent my dog an email asking him to verify that I own Mediation Channel. In order for my dog to confirm or deny that I own my blog, he had to allow NetworkedBlogs access to his account, something I don’t think he particularly wanted to do. (Unless it’s an app that involves bacon or chasing squirrels, he’s just not interested.)

This is wrong in so many ways. Let’s consider them:

  • Unscrupulous people with the assistance of unobservant or equally unscrupulous friends could claim your blog on Facebook.
  • Anyone, even if they’re a dog, can verify ownership of a blog in the wacky world that NetworkedBlogs inhabits.
  • If you ask your friends for help in verifying ownership of your blog, you’re asking them to allow an app they probably don’t want have access to their accounts – which seems awfully unkind to your friends.

If you decide to go the widget route, you should know that NetworkedBlogs does not believe in hidden code or discreet badges. You will be presented with a choice between two wincingly hideous and ginormous widgets to stick in your sidebar to prove you have administrative access to your blog.

NetworkedBlogs describes itself as an app that allows you to “[p]romote your blog on Facebook and to discover new blogs… Join the fun, add your blog, and connect with others who read and write about subjects you like.” Join the fun? I don’t think so.

On the internet, NetworkedBlogs neither knows nor seems to care that you’re a dog. This is one app to avoid on principle – and avoid inflicting on your Facebook friends.

The editorial staff of Mediation Channel confirms that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post.

What makes a great mediator? 2nd episode of Cafe Mediate podcast series has answers

In the second episode of ADR podcast series Cafe Mediate, conflict resolution and ADR marketing expert Tammy Lenski, London-based international business mediator Amanda Bucklow, New York City detective and conflict resolution professional Jeff Thompson, and I sit down together to consider the question, “What makes a great mediator?”.

This lively transatlantic conversation focused on the qualities that distinguish the effective practitioner. Listening to these seasoned colleagues left me inspired and thinking how fortunate I am to be able to count these talented conflict resolvers as my friends – thanks to Tammy, Amanda, and Jeff for such a thought-provoking discussion.

Each month ADR podcast series Cafe Mediate (motto: “where conversation, not caffeine, is the stimulant”), will feature conversation among ADR practitioners about topics relevant to the business, practice, and future of our field.

Future editions will explore issues such as certification and professionalization; debunking ADR myths; and training and education of mediators. I hope you’ll tune in. In the meantime, click here to learn more about “what makes a great mediator“.

Cafe Mediate: 1st episode in new ADR podcast series covers value billing

Cafe MediateCafe Mediate is the latest brainchild of mediation marketing and conflict resolution expert Tammy Lenski, who publishes two popular blogs, Conflict Zen and Making Mediation Your Day Job. Cafe Mediate (motto: “where conversation not caffeine is the stimulant”), a new monthly podcast series, will feature lively discussion among ADR professionals about topics relevant to practitioners, from the pragmatic to the provocative.

The inaugural session just aired. This transatlantic conversation brought together me, Tammy, and international business mediator Amanda Bucklow, who is based in England and blogs at the top-drawer Mediation Times, to talk about an issue of great interest to conflict resolution professionals: value billing.

Listen in to the podcast at “Value-based fees in the mediation and ADR world“.  If you use an RSS reader (for further instructions, see this video Tammy helpfully created), you can subscribe to alerts at CafeMediate’s main page.

Thanks to Tammy for inviting me to join in and to the extraordinary Amanda as well – I enjoyed the conversation and am already looking forward to the next one.

One reason why mediation trainers should use Twitter

Twitter for mediatorsFor those of you still on the fence about whether or not to join Twitter, the popular social media and networking site, there’s one reason why you might want to sign up, at least if you’re a mediation trainer: you’ll find out what the participants really think about the program.

Twitter conveniently allows users to search for updates containing particular words or phrases – a good way to monitor your brand, or get candid feedback about a program or services.

Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging: 3 mistakes to avoid as you negotiate social media

Oops!A compellingly attractive aspect of all forms of social media – whether blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or others – is their relative ease of use.

Within moments, anyone with internet access and no technological ability whatsoever can leap confidently into the driver’s seat of social media. Thanks to user-friendly platforms like Twitter, WordPress, or Blogger, social interaction online is a mere click of the mouse away.

This is not to say that social media is without difficulty or nuance. Each form demands observation of custom or etiquette. These themselves are no more difficult to master than the social media tools themselves, but even the experienced can trip up.

I’ve written this post to alert you to potholes in the social media highway that I’ve spotted (or broken an axle in myself) recently. I pass these on to you so you can avoid them.

Mistake No. 1. Blogger beware: misusing URL shorteners

For those of you unfamiliar with them, URL shorteners are handy tools online that allow you to shorten a lengthy URL to something more convenient. Popular URL shortening services include TinyURL.com, bit.ly, and is.gd. They come in handy for a number of purposes. Often long URLs can break in an email message, so a shortened URL avoids the risk of broken and unreadable links that could frustrate recipients of your emails. They are also useful for Twitter, which limits messages, including the URLs they contain, to 140 characters. URL shorteners come to the rescue, cutting down lengthy URLs to manageable size.

I recently needed to provide my mediation students with a link to an article by Professor Leonard Riskin on his grid system for describing mediator roles and behaviors. The original URL is the unwieldy:

http://www.gevim.co.il/image/users/89301/ftp/my_files/pdf/Grid.pdf

Using TinyURL.com, which allows for the creation of custom links, I reduced it to:

http://tinyurl.com/riskingrid

There’s a down side to using URL shorteners. Shortened URLs can be used to hide the identity of malicious sites, leading the trusting straight to phishing exploits or spam. (For more on that, please see Mistake No. 2, coming up in a moment.)

This ability of URL shorteners to hide the identity of sites also makes them antithetical to the social nature of blogging, which depend upon links to promote conversation between, and drive traffic to, blogs. Totally by chance, I discovered that a legal blogger mentioned a post on Mediation Channel. Usually WordPress and Google Alerts tip me off when someone has linked to or referred to one of my articles, but not in this case. Puzzled as to why both my WordPress dashboard and Google failed to alert me about this mention, I checked the link to Mediation Channel in the blogger’s post. Instead of using the actual URL for the post, the blogger used one generated by a URL shortening service. Curious, I checked to see whether the blogger had done the same for the other sites they linked to in their post, and saw that they had shortened links to other blogs as well. I did notice that in this and other posts the blogger used the original URL to link to hugely popular blogs or to the sites of prominent news media but used the URL shortener for less exalted blogs. Hmm.

I could be wrong here (and I fervently hope I am), but it sure looks as if this blogger wanted to conceal the URLs of other blogs to avoid giving fellow bloggers the full benefit that linking provides the linker and the linked – two-way conversation, reciprocity, the brand building that using an actual domain name promotes, increased traffic, and search engine recognition. Too bad. This practice also thwarts people like me who like to mouseover links to see what URL they point to; that way I know where I’ll be heading when I click.

To put it in language that conflict resolution practitioners will recognize, blogging is meant to be a value-creating proposition, not a value-claiming one. The reciprocal linking that is the life force of blogging ensures that everyone wins – both the blogger who links and the blogger being linked to. I can only hope that this particular blogger’s practice is unthinking blunder and not deliberate choice. This is the first occasion I’ve had to observe this phenomenon, so I trust that this is not an emerging trend.

In any event, fellow bloggers, please don’t use URL shorteners for links in your blog posts. Otherwise, you risk diluting the power of the link – for you and for everyone else – and that’s a lose-lose.

Mistake No. 2: Clicking with abandon, not caution, on Twitter or Facebook

While social media sites can sometimes seem like idyllic utopian worlds, trouble lurks in the shadows. Twitter for example has been the frequent target of spammers and other digital vandals. An innocent message you receive from a friend might contain a link to a virus. I’ve been fortunate and have avoided trouble, but many of my connections on Twitter have not been so lucky.

Twitter has advice if you think your account has been hijacked or compromised, and Brickhouse Security Blog offers sensible tips on playing it safe, warning, “Don’t assume a link is ‘safe’ just because a friend sent it to you”.

I use Tweetdeck for managing my Twitter account and reading updates; it has a convenient feature that expands shortened links to reveal their true source. That may not always be enough to protect you, but it’s one line of defense. No matter what, click with caution.

Mistake No. 3. Annoying your LinkedIn connections with Twitter updates

Social media giants Twitter and LinkedIn recently announced that they’re going steady, good news for people who use both these networking sites. LinkedIn users can now feature their Twitter updates in their profiles, or post their LinkedIn updates to Twitter.

Unfortunately the instructions on linking your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are not fully idiot-proof, as I recently discovered. Your LinkedIn connections who aren’t on Twitter may not fully appreciate getting your postings to Twitter as LinkedIn updates. If you decide to connect your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, to limit what tweets appear in your LinkedIn profile, do the following:

  1. Log in to your LinkedIn account
  2. Go to “Accounts & Settings” (upper right-hand of the LinkedIn page);
  3. Under “Profile Settings” locate “Twitter Settings”
  4. Click on “Twitter Settings”. Click the option that says “Share only tweets that contain #in”. This will give you control over and limit the tweets that appear as a LinkedIn update.

(With a tip of the hat to Philip J. Loree, Jr.)

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Got gaffes of your own you’d care to share from your own adventures in social media? Please feel free to contribute in the comment section below.

Ethics and best practices for mediation provider organizations: 7 years after Georgetown

ethical business practices for mediatorsAs readers of this blog know, the private practice of mediation in the United States remains unregulated by government.  Arguably, this absence of formal regulation, licensing, and credentialing does not diminish mediation’s standing as a profession.  It does, however, place weighty responsibility on the shoulders of U.S. mediators, collectively and individually, to protect the reputation of the profession and to build public confidence in mediation services.

Professional standards of conduct remind mediators to aspire to moral values or principles, and to strive for consistency between those values and practice.  But a professional ethos embraces more than the practice of mediation: those professional values should apply not to the delivery of services alone, but also to the business of mediation.

In May 2002, as part of a joint initiative, two respected institutions – the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution and Georgetown University Law Center – drafted and approved Principles for ADR Provider Organizations (PDF).  These principles were created to provide guidance to “any entity or individual which holds itself out as managing or administering dispute resolution or conflict management services” and to encourage the responsible practice of ADR.  Among other things, they encompass values that include fairness, quality and accessibility of service, and competence of neutrals; and they emphasize the importance of establishing policies regarding confidentiality, internal or external ethical codes, and conflicts of interest. I have reproduced these principles below.

As I read these principles, the product of evident hard work and deliberation, I note that one essential ingredient is missing: diversity. In revisiting them today, mediators might draw inspiration for revisions from the example set by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution, Rule 7 (PDF), which provides that:

Programs shall be designed with knowledge of and sensitivity to the diversity of the communities served. The design shall take into consideration such factors as the languages, dispute resolution styles, and ethnic traditions of communities likely to use the services. Programs shall not discriminate against staff, neutrals, volunteers, or clients on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Programs shall actively strive to achieve diversity among staff, neutrals, and volunteers.

A 2009 version might emphasize the importance of measures that ensure that decisions relating to hiring, evaluation, and promotion of mediators are free from bias.

I invite you to read the principles yourself and ask: what would you add or change today to improve them for today and for the years ahead?

I.  Quality and Competence of Services

  1. The ADR Provider Organization should take all reasonable steps to maximize the quality and competence of its services, absent a clear and prominent disclaimer to the contrary.
  2. Absent a clear and prominent disclaimer to the contrary, the ADR Provider Organization should take all reasonable steps to maximize the likelihood that (i) the neutrals who provide services under its auspices are qualified and competent to conduct the processes and handle the kind of cases which the Organization will generally refer to them; and (ii) the neutral to whom a case is referred is competent to handle the specific matter referred.
  3. The ADR Provider Organization’s responsibilities under Principles I and I.a decrease as the ADR parties’ knowing involvement in screening and selecting the particular neutral increases.
  4. The ADR Provider Organization’s responsibilities under this Principle are continuing ones, which requires the ADR Provider Organization to take all reasonable steps to monitor and evaluate the performance of its affiliated neutrals.

II.  Information Regarding  Services and Operations

ADR Provider Organizations should take all reasonable steps to provide clear, accurate and understandable information about the following aspects of their services and operations:

  1. The nature of the ADR Provider Organization’s services, operations, and fees;
  2. The relevant economic, legal, professional or other relationships between the ADR Provider Organization and its affiliated neutrals;
  3. The ADR Provider Organization’s policies relating to confidentiality, organizational and individual conflicts of interests, and ethical standards for neutrals and the Organization;
  4. Training and qualifications requirements for neutrals affiliated with the Organization, as well as other selection criteria for affiliation; and
  5. The method by which neutrals are selected for service.

III.  Fairness and Impartiality

The ADR Provider Organization has an obligation to ensure that ADR processes provided under its auspices are fundamentally fair and conducted in an impartial manner.

IV.  Accessibility of Services

ADR Provider Organizations should take all reasonable steps, appropriate to their size, nature and resources, to provide access to their services at reasonable cost to low-income parties.

V.   Disclosure of Organizational Conflicts of Interest

  1. The ADR Provider Organization should disclose the existence of any interests or relationships which are reasonably likely to affect the impartiality or independence of the Organization or which might reasonably create the appearance that the Organization is biased against a party or favorable to another, including (i) any financial or other interest by the Organization in the outcome; (ii) any significant financial, business, organizational, professional or other relationship that the Organization has with any of the parties or their counsel, including a contractual stream of referrals, a de facto stream of referrals, or a funding relationship between a party and the organization; or (iii) any other significant source of bias or prejudice concerning the Organization which is reasonably likely to affect impartiality or might reasonably create an appearance of partiality or bias.
  2. The ADR Provider Organization shall decline to provide its services unless all parties choose to retain the Organization, following the required disclosures, except in circumstances where contract or applicable law requires otherwise.

VI.  Complaint and Grievance Mechanisms

ADR Provider Organizations should provide mechanisms for addressing grievances about the Organization, and its administration or the neutral services offered, and should disclose the nature and availability of the mechanisms to the parties in a clear, accurate and understandable manner. Complaint and grievance mechanisms should also provide a fair and impartial process for the affected neutral or other individual against whom a grievance has been made.

VII.  Ethical Guidelines

  1. ADR Provider Organizations should require affiliated neutrals to subscribe to a reputable internal or external ADR code of ethics, absent or in addition to a controlling statutory or professional code of ethics.
  2. ADR Provider Organizations should conduct themselves with integrity and evenhandedness in the management of their own disputes, finances, and other administrative matters.

VIII.  False or Misleading Communications

An ADR Provider Organization should not knowingly make false or misleading communications about its services. If settlement rates or other measures of reporting are communicated, information should be disclosed in a clear, accurate and understandable manner about how the rate is measured or calculated.

IX.   Confidentiality

An ADR Provider Organization should take all reasonable steps to protect the level of confidentiality agreed to by the parties, established by the organization or neutral, or set by applicable law or contract.

  1. ADR Provider Organizations should establish and disclose their policies relating to the confidentiality of their services and the processes offered consistent with the laws of the jurisdiction.
  2. ADR Provider Organizations should ensure that their policies regarding confidentiality are communicated to the neutrals associated with the Organization.

ADR Provider Organizations should ensure that their policies regarding confidentiality are communicated to the ADR participants.

Only connect: the advantages of reading or writing blogs for the ADR professional

The joys of reading and writing blogs for the ADR professionalFour times each year, the American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution publishes Dispute Resolution Magazine, covering trends and news that affect ADR practitioners and scholars. An article I wrote about blogging appeared in the Summer 2009 issue. The folks on the magazine’s editorial board have kindly given me permission to upload it to share it here with you.

This article, “Only Connect: The Impact of Blogging on the Field of ADR“, describes how blogging has changed the way ADR professionals do business, share and debate ideas, and build meaningful personal connections across (and despite) time zones.

Here’s an excerpt:

In his 2006 book Conversation: A History of a Declining Art, author Stephen Miller evoked a golden age of discourse that England enjoyed in the 18th century. The seat of that renaissance of conversation was the coffeehouse, where wit and aphorism flourished. Men gathered to warm themselves with a dish of coffee, transact business, gather news, enjoy the latest gossip, and of course converse.

Although the British coffeehouse has largely faded from public memory, a spiritual descendant has emerged possessing many of its ancestor’s most distinctive attributes: the blog. Like its 18th century predecessor, the blog is simultaneously marketplace, library, and public square, with a wealth of views and ideas clamoring for consideration, attracting businesspeople, scholars, thinkers, writers, celebrities, and ordinary citizens.

ADR professionals and scholars perhaps would have felt at home in the 18th-century coffeehouse. We and the coffeehouse share similar virtues: ours is a field that promotes and pursues the exchange of ideas and information. It is fundamentally about conversation. And, like England in the 18th century, the ADR field is enjoying its own renaissance in discourse, one that flowers lushly online, thanks to the phenomenon of blogging, drawn to its capacity for bringing people and fresh thinking together…

For ADR bloggers and our readers, the phenomenon of blogging has dramatically affected us and the way we practice in three key areas: the business of ADR, the dissemination and discussion of information and ideas, and professional networking. I invite you to explore them with me…

The article also names some essential blogs to follow. Space constrained me, preventing me from adding all that I would. Here’s a far more comprehensive list of 24 outstanding alternative dispute resolution blogs to read regularly.