As 2012 gets underway, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods - such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law - continue to get headlines across the country. A recent article from The National Law Journal discussed the growth of ADR nationally and the prospects for continued growth. (http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202535040657&slreturn=1) Here in Alabama, both the Alabama Bar Association and Birmingham Bar Association have active ADR sections that are providing community education and outreach programs, as well as lawyer education. Judy Keegan and her staff at the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution (www.alabamaadr.org) continue to provide invaluable resources to our State, and I am glad they are there to back up the Alabama ADR community.
As outlined in an article from The Denver Post this week (http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_19797362), divorce mediation is a trend that continues to grow – and that is a good thing. More couples should take control of these important decisions and do what is necessary to preserve relationships and civility during their divorce. In a related vein, Collaborative Law continues to pick up steam in Alabama, providing an opportunity for families facing divorce to truly work in a respectful and constructive manner to achieve a resolution to their divorce that can provide for growth and healing. And I am convinced that Collaborative Law has applications outside of divorce and family disputes. The efforts locally by the Birmingham Collaborative Alliance (www.birminghamcollaborative.com) and nationally by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (www.collaborativepractice.com) can only help this model to spread and provide folks facing many types of disputes another avenue to reach resolution.
There are other areas where ADR is getting media attention as well. The recession has lead many states to adopt programs for mortgage foreclosure mediation. While the results have varied from state to state, these programs are still being explored as avenues to provide relief to homeowners. From the world of sports, the Big East Conference has been ordered to mediate with West Virginia University regarding that school’s desire to join a different conference. All these trends are positive, and should be encouraged.
I will keep spreading the word about ADR options here in Alabama. The more educated businesses and people become regarding their options for resolving disputes, the better for everyone. As our courts continue to face large backlogs of cases with ever shrinking budgets, ADR will provide the most cost effective and time efficient means to reach the right result.