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The Section of Dispute Resolution, the largest dispute-resolution organization in the world, is the leader in dispute-resolution policy, practice and problem solving both in the United States and internationally. From its inception in 1993, the section has grown to nearly 17,000 members, including mediators, arbitrators, attorney advocates, users and professors and students of dispute resolution processes. The section prides itself on welcoming everyone with an interest in dispute resolution and promoting an active dialog among a diverse group with sometimes divergent views. The section’s broad-based Task Force on Improving Mediation Quality has conducted focus groups in cities across the country to ask users of mediation services what works for them in the mediation process and what qualities they seek in a mediator. The task force is compiling the information obtained and will soon report its findings and recommendations. In addition, the section has created a distinguished Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance to answer inquiries regarding the practical application of the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators in specific situations. In a recent development, the section, in collaboration with the Criminal Justice Section and other interested American Bar Association entities, has received a grant from the ABA Enterprise Fund to create a pathway for greater use of mediation in criminal matters, specifically the negotiated resolution of cases when the accused is incarcerated. The section recently formed a Collaborative Law Committee to explore the use of collaborative law in both family and nonfamily settings. The section’s annual spring conference is the largest gathering of dispute-resolution professionals in the United States, routinely drawing more than 1,200 attendees. The next annual conference will be held in Seattle in April 2008. The conference will include the rich variety of continuing legal education programs � recent developments, skills training and new initiatives � that participants expect and value. The section continues to present its national mediation and arbitration institutes each year, with the next mediation institute taking place in San Antonio in October and an arbitration advocacy program scheduled for San Francisco in February 2008. The ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative creates many opportunities for the section in the coming year. The section plans to emphasize its projects in domestic and international arbitration � a dispute resolution process that can provide unbiased, high-quality, principled decisions in a cost-effective manner. The section plans to undertake an analysis of litigators’ concerns regarding the use of arbitration as an alternative to courts. We will ask other sections in the ABA to collaborate with us in this important inquiry. In this era of increasing polarization of political leadership and the electorate on important public policy issues, there is a critical need to promote public dialog and consensus-building processes. The section is in a unique position to lead the way in transforming our public policy decision-making using proven dispute resolution communication skills. Lawrence R. Mills, the incoming chair of the Section of Dispute Resolution, is an arbitrator, mediator and attorney with the Seattle law firm Mills Meyers Swartling. For more information about the section, see
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