10 Tips for Practicing in Dispute Resolution
The Dispute Resolution Section participated in a law student roundtable discussion that provided current law students with a better understanding on the experiences, rewards, and challenges practicing attorneys have faced in dispute resolution while offering insight on the various career opportunities available.
Jennifer Lupo, Esq., managing member of Lupo Law, Arbitration & Mediation PLLC and Dispute Resolution Section member, compiled 10 tips for law students who are pursuing a career of practicing in dispute resolution:
- Learn to negotiate in your own right. If you cannot negotiate effectively on your own behalf, you will not be an effective advocate in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), nor an effective ADR neutral. The good news is negotiation skills can be learned, so take a course(s) in law school on negotiation and learn the 5 different styles of negotiation ((i) Accommodating (I lose-you win); (ii) Avoiding (I lose-you lose); (iii) Collaborating (I win-you win); (iv) Competing (I win-you lose); and (v) Compromising (I lose/win some-you lose/win some)). Mastering how to contend with each of these 5 styles is integral to your development as an attorney, an attorney utilizing ADR, and/or as an ADR neutral. Read: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, Richard L. Uri and Bruce Patton and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.
- Develop your soft skills and emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Having high EQ is a trait possessed by the best attorneys and ADR neutrals. Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people and you should consider developing the following soft skills which are also important for success as an ADR neutral: a genuine desire to help other people; humility and sensitivity; empathy; and listening, among many others you should come to know as you develop professionally (and personally) .
- Join New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the Dispute Resolution Section (DRS) and get involved. Being a member of a section such as DRS will expose you to many experienced dispute resolution professionals (e.g. attorneys, mediators, and arbitrators). Once a DRS member, join a committee (e.g. domestic arbitration or mediation). Committee work will allow for more direct exposure by you to thought leaders which will allow for your professional development.
- Get ADR training. If your law school does not offer classes in ADR yet you wish to train as a mediator or arbitrator (or both), consider taking one or more courses with the DRS. Each year the DRS offers basic and advanced commercial mediation and arbitration training. More information on these trainings can be found at www.nysba.org/drs (scholarships may be available). Lastly, if the DRS trainings conflict with your schedule, consider mediation training through a Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC). You can find a CDRC in your geographic area within New York State by following this link http://ww2.nycourts.gov/ip/adr/cdrc.shtml . Train early in your career. Developing a viable ADR practice usually takes a minimum of 15 years.
- Be organized. If organization is your Achilles Heel, get that ‘heel’ repaired by investing the time to learn basic organizational skills and implement them. The best ADR neutrals (and attorneys in general) are those who are well organized and know how to manage their time effectively.
- Ethics, Ethics, Ethics. Attorneys, mediators, and arbitrators are all subject to rules of ethics. Know the rules, live by the rules.
- Arbitrators: adr.org/sites/default/files/document_repository/Commercial_Code_of_Ethics_for_Arbitrators_2010_10_14.pdf
- Attorneys: New York Rules of Professional Conduct: https://www.nycourts.gov/legacypdfs/rules/jointappellate/NY-Rules-Prof-Conduct-1200.pdf
- Mediators: https://ww2.nycourts.gov/sites/default/files/document/files/2018-07/Standards_of_Conduct.pdf
- Write articles for bar association journals and/or organize moderated panel discussion. As noted above, committees will give you exposure to thought leaders and may lead to opportunities to co-author articles for the DRS journal or allow you to help put together a CLE panel. Getting a thoughtful article on a pressing ADR issue published will help you to learn a cutting-edge issue and grow your reputation in the field.
- Find a mentor. This link will take you to a great article on how to tackle the task of finding a mentor, what your role as a mentee is, and what to expect from your mentor (and not expect). If you are a DRS member a person from an underrepresented group, you can apply to be matched with a mentor from the DRS section. For more information on the DRS mentorship program follow this link.
- Volunteer. Represent a pro-se party pro bono in court ordered mediation to get dispute resolution experience early on in your career. Many law schools have clinics which allow students to represent pro-se parties in court annexed mediation. If your law school does not have such a clinic, consider admission to federal court upon admission to the NY Bar and volunteering with the pro-se clerk at the district court’s clerks’ offices.
- Network, Network, Network! Have your elevator pitch ready. Join local community-based networking groups (e.g. Lions, Kiwanis, BNI). You never know who needs dispute resolution services.
For more information on the Dispute Resolution Section and resources for law students, please visit nysba.org/lawstudent
Jennifer Lupo is the managing member of Lupo Law, Arbitration & Mediation PLLC with offices in New York and Dutchess Counties. She is the chair of the section liaison’s committee of the NYSBA DRS and a member of the DRS’s executive committee. She may be reached at [email protected].