An Emerging Structure of ADR in Mass Torts and MDLs

The official statistics provided by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in recent years count Products Liability as nearly one quarter of all pending multidistrict litigations (MDLs), making it the largest category among all classifications.

Many of these Product Liability MDLs, especially pharmaceutical and medical device mass torts, continue to dominate headlines in mainstream and legal media. These mega cases dominate and potentially drain the resources of the courts, counsel and parties to the litigation. The magnitude of these matters, combined with the statistical likelihood of eventual settlement in nearly all of them requires focus on trends that facilitate resolution.

ADR has a longstanding role in resolving some of the largest and most high-profile matters. As with any evolving industry, ADR models were developed to streamline processes for the efficient resolution of disputes. This is certainly true within the context of mass torts, where a cooperative, working model has emerged because all stakeholders buy into its effectiveness. Continue reading

JAMS Announces Collaboration with Shanghai Commercial Mediation Center

We are pleased to celebrate the signing of an agreement between JAMS and the Shanghai Commercial Mediation Center. Although JAMS is a global organization, this is the only agreement of its kind in China.JAMS & SCMC 2

The primary reason for the success of ADR in the U.S. is that it allows parties to achieve resolution quickly and with less expense. The availability and use of skilled, highly trained and experienced mediators and arbitrators allows businesses to efficiently move beyond disputes so they can focus on their primary mission. Litigation can be extremely expensive and it uses resources that could be put to use in far more productive ways.

It is clear that China presents an even larger opportunity for mediation. It has a vibrant economy, an increasing number of commercial transactions and growing free trade zones. It is a perfect environment in which to establish and encourage mediation as part of business practices. The growing pace of cross-border commerce also presents a growing demand for mediation and arbitration.

JAMS has seen a rapid expansion in the number of cross-border disputes that it handles – a 30 percent increase last year alone. But we have limited expertise in cultures and legal systems outside of our core markets, and that is why it is important to have high-quality organizations like the SCMC to be our partner.

SCMC Director Madame Zhang and her team have expressed a desire to build the premier mediation company in China and our two organizations will work closely together to further that goal. SCMC has already put together a respected panel of experts in mediation and we will work together to ensure that the systems and procedures that SCMC puts in place are among the best in the world.

We are looking forward to a successful relationship with SCMC and hope that these efforts will ensure that ADR becomes as accepted here as it has in the United States so that businesses involved in both domestic and cross-border commerce can thrive.

Diversity Matters

A casual look around the room at any major mediation conference will quickly confirm that women and minorities are still significantly under represented. It may be a long slow journey to create more representative panels worldwide, but one that is well worth taking.

According to the ABA in April 2016, nearly half of all law degrees issued in the United States in the previous academic year were to women. However, if you look at elite law firms, only 18 percent of the partners at the top 200 firms are women. Within that same environment the numbers of Black, Latino and Asian partners represent an even smaller percentage  Few statistics are available to identify how many mediators in the U.S. are women or from an individual ethnic group, but it is safe to assume that they likely parallel the statistics in the elite law firms.

In an area of law where nuance and creativity are most highly valued, including more women and more people from different cultural backgrounds can only enhance the success of mediations.  Creative problem solving, the ability to leverage different types of communications styles and a real sensitivity to important cultural issues are among the most important skill sets a mediator or arbitrator bring to a case.

The pool of neutrals available to hear cases should more closely reflect the demographics of the population they serve; this is one of the most important ways to ensure successful resolution of cases and the ongoing growth of mediation as a dispute resolution tool.  Training and developing a younger, more diverse group of mediators is one of the best ways to ensure that mediation continues to grow as a conflict resolution tool.

ADR providers like JAMS and others recognize the importance of increased diversity among ADR practitioners. They have challenged law firms, corporations and legal organizations to consider women and ethnically diverse neutrals, track their firms’ neutral selection process to measure progress and provide resources to diverse professionals on preparing for a successful career in ADR. Finally they encourage their clients to consider diversity in their selection of ADR professionals.