|Jennifer Grieco, Chair
It is my honor to step into the role as Chair of the ADR Section and to follow in the footsteps of the distinguished list of prior Chairs of the Section. I am thankful for our former Chairs’ service and dedication to the Section. I am especially thankful for the service of our immediate Past Chair, Ed Pappas. I’ve had the privilege of following in his footsteps as former Presidents of both the Oakland County Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan. In every role, Ed has led with thoughtful insight, professionalism, and humor. These traits are what make him a sought-after mediator, arbitrator, and bar leader. We were lucky to have his years of service on the ADR Section Council and I’m grateful that he will continue to serve the Section in his role as Immediate Past Chair. Thank you, Ed, for a job well done – again.
I also want to thank the members of our Council that rotated off this year: Erin Archerd, Susan Davis, Nakisha Chaney, Edward Sikorski, and Justice (Ret.) Kurtis Wilder. We were fortunate to have each of them on the Council and are grateful for their dedication to the Section over the years. And we welcome our new Council members: Judge Patricia Fresard, Chief Judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court, Dennis Barnes from Barnes ADR, Michelle Harrell from Taft, and Marc Stanley, Executive Director of SEDRS. We look forward to their contributions in the coming years.
By way of introduction, I’m a business litigator, who also handles professional negligence claims. As I have said a few times lately, I’m a full-time litigator, who has the privilege of mediating and arbitrating disputes for other litigants in my “free time”. Like many, after practicing for 26 years, I find myself enjoying the opportunity to step away from the role of advocate to serve as a neutral. Many of my contemporaries who have been litigating for “far too long” feel the same way. Having completed the 40-hour mediator’s course, they are eager for opportunities to serve in this role as the profession transitions to the next generation of neutrals.
While our Section consists of many members who are full-time neutrals, I’d like to see our Section increase membership among these full-time litigators who are up and coming neutrals. There is much that this Section has to offer new or future ADR professionals. In fact, there is much this Section can offer all litigators who utilize mediation and arbitration services. By way of example, the Section can provide litigators with tools and insight to best utilize dispute resolution for a quicker and, hopefully, more beneficial outcome for their clients. Considering the high percentage of cases that are resolved without trial,1 our Section can and should be a resource to all who utilize alternative dispute resolution, which goal aligns with the Section’s Mission Statement.2 We should expect that the number of disputes sent to mediation or arbitration will only increase in the future and that new lawyers, learning to practice law in the Zoom environment, will rely heavily on neutrals to resolve their cases because they have not learned to settle cases by talking with opposing counsel at the courthouse or simply picking up the phone. I am hopeful that membership in this Section will appeal to a broader audience as we work together to train and educate for the increase in alternative dispute resolution. As noted by a recent interview with former Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, who now serves as the President and CEO of the American Arbitration Association, “The Future of Dispute Resolution is Here.”3
And, along those lines, I’d like to encourage more members to get involved in our Section. We have several Action Teams (committees) that could use your ideas and insight. You don’t have to be a member of the Council to serve on an Action Team or to provide feedback. Our Skills Action Team develops excellent programming throughout the year with Lunch and Learns, the ADR Summit and the Annual Conference. Do you have suggestions for future programming for seasoned neutrals, new ADR professionals and/or litigators? Please share those ideas with the Skills Action Team, currently chaired by Larry Saylor and Alex Green, IV. In addition to the Skills Action Team, you can provide your voice to proposed changes to court rules that impact mediation or arbitration through input to the Legislative and Court Procedures Action Team. You can support efforts to increase the use of diverse neutrals by joining our Diversity & Inclusion Action Team. You can also support the efforts of the Community Dispute Resolution Centers Action Team, the Membership Outreach Action Team, the Judicial Action Team, or the Publications Action Team. More information about each of the Action Teams can be found on our webpage.
The ADR Section is also privileged to be sponsoring the July 2024 ADR theme issue of the Michigan Bar Journal. For this special issue, the ADR Section will be selecting and submitting four articles to the State Bar (up to 2,500 words each, including footnotes).4 The deadline to submit a proposal for an article topic is January 12, 2024. Please submit proposals to either Lisa Okasinski firstname.lastname@example.org or me, email@example.com. Articles of interest to the wider Bar (as opposed to only ADR practitioners) and articles about cutting edge topics are highly encouraged. We look forward to putting together another informative ADR themed Bar Journal.
Finally, if you were unable to attend the Section’s Annual Conference on September 29 and 30, 2023, or missed any of the sessions that you wanted to attend, they are now available to all Section members on the SBM ADR Section webpage.5 We are thankful for all the speakers and their excellent and informative presentations.
1 According to the information provided by the Michigan Supreme Court, less than 1.5 percent of civil cases filed in Michigan’s circuit courts are resolved through trial. https://www.courts.michigan.gov/administration/offices/office-of-dispute-resolution/guide-to-adr-processes/
2The mission of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section is to encourage conflict resolution by:
- Providing training and education for ADR professionals;
- Giving professionals the tools to empower people in conflict to create optimal resolutions;
- Promoting diversity and inclusion in the training, development, and selection of ADR providers and encouraging the elimination of mediator bias; and,
- Advancing the use of alternative dispute resolution processes in our courts, government, businesses, and communities.
3 Corporate Counsel Business Journal, The Future of Dispute Resolution is Here, (October 5, 2023), The Future of Dispute Resolution is Here (ccbjournal.com)
4 The authors must closely follow the submission requirements outlined in the State Bar’s article guidelines. Only academic articles with proper citations (using the Michigan Appellate Opinion Manual) will be considered for publication.
5 Look under Resources, Section Library, Annual Conference, 2023.