Out of the
Courtroom, Across the
Dispute resolution prepares students for the
new reality of law.
The dramatic pause. The carefully crafted closing
statement. The zinging question that brings a defendant to his
These are skills that many would expect students to learn
in law school. That, and what torts are (hint: they are not
While Hamline law students still study the delicate art of
trial, they also learn a host of other important skills:
negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, particularly if they
participate in the school’s top-ranked alternative dispute
resolution (ADR) program.
For the last five years, Hamline School of Law’s ADR
program has ranked in the top five nationwide, placing it in
an elite league with the University of Missouri-Columbia,
Pepperdine, Harvard, and Ohio State, according U.S.News and
How did Hamline get placed alongside such well-known
universities? If you’re asking yourself that question, you
need to take another look at Hamline University School of Law.
Dean Jon Garon likens the school to Medtronic and 3M, in that
they all share Minnesota values (a certain “hotdish” quality,
as he put it) but are all also leading the way domestically,
and internationally, in their fields.
Dispute resolution: no longer the alternative
Law and Order, Matlock, and Judge Judy don’t tell the whole
story: that fewer than 5 percent of all lawsuits that are
filed go to trial.
Instead, they get “settled,” a broad term referring to a
host of possibilities, including ADR.
The name—“alternative dispute resolution”—is therefore
misleading. “Litigation is the biggest alternative around,”
Professor Bobbi McAdoo said.
In Minnesota, virtually all disputes of any magnitude are
required by law to consider using ADR. Even if both sides
consider it but decide not to, the judge can require them to
“ADR is a broad umbrella of options, including many
designed outside an adversarial
paradigm,” said Professor Jim Coben, director of the law
school’s Dispute Resolution Institute. “Two common approaches,
negotiation and mediation, remove the ‘win-lose’ aspect,
instead focusing on ways to solve the problem by working
Negotiation consists of a direct discussion with the
opposing side, while mediation adds a trained third party to
facilitate party settlement discussions. Arbitration, a third
popular ADR process, resembles litigation in that a neutral
party hears both sides and decides what the resolution should
be. Yet arbitration provides unique opportunities for party
agreement quite distinct from court.
“In most cases, parties get to choose who they want their
arbitrator to be and what rules will govern their dispute,”
Coben said. “Even though the arbitrator makes a decision, it
will be on terms defined by the parties.”
News stories about superfluous lawsuits and frustrating
technicalities paint a one-sided picture of the legal system.
In reality, its policies and structure do more to bring people
together than keep them apart.
Hamline teaches skills, not just theory
Through its Dispute Resolution Institute, Hamline offers a
host of ADR options for its students: from classes to clinics
to certificates, with some taking place as study abroad
opportunities around the world.
The programs prepare students to
know the different processes and how to advise their clients
on which are most appropriate. They also learn how to prepare
for the option chosen and how their role in the proceedings
might be different (as an advocate instead of a lawyer, for
example) but how they can still support their client.
While ADR is becoming an increasingly popular focus for law
schools, Hamline’s programs do more than just teach students
about the concept—they teach students how to use it.
“Teaching students to apply theory to skills—that’s where
we really differentiate ourselves from other law schools,”
Students agree. “My perspective regarding legal education
has completely changed,” said Manoj Madhaven, an attorney from
Trichur, India, who is a student in the law school’s
Tri-Continental LLM (master of laws, for international
“I had always believed you could not do anything practical
in a law class. In fact, with the direct faculty-student
interaction we enjoyed with Jim [Coben] and Bobbi [McAdoo], I
learned that the law classroom can be a place to study the
skills of lawyering as well as theory.”
Growing, growing, globally
The real growth in ADR is worldwide, where companies need
people with expertise in negotiation and mediation to compete
internationally. Globalization has created an international
demand for ADR, one that Hamline is at the forefront of
To prepare students for the realities of international
conflict, Hamline offers a variety of courses for its students
in countries worldwide (the growing list now includes England,
Israel, Italy, Norway, Puerto Rico, and France/Hungary).
Students can study conflict resolution in religious traditions
in Jerusalem, learn how dispute resolution aids global
businesses in Rome, and gain skills in international
arbitration in London.
Hamline also offers a host of opportunities for students in
other countries, giving students enrolled in other
institutions around the world direct access to Hamline courses
and Hamline professors.
The newest program
distinguishes itself by taking place in three countries. The
Tri-Continental LLM program is a joint venture between the
Indian Institute of Arbitration & Mediation in Cochin,
India; Queen Mary, University of London; and Hamline. The
students, all Indian, study first in India (completing a
diploma course with Professors Coben and McAdoo) then in
London (participating in Hamline’s month-long Certificate
Program in Global Arbitration Law and Practice), and finally
at Hamline this fall, spending a semester participating in
internships and completing their LLM degree.
India, London, the U.S. … it’s a program that many students
would dream of taking. Yet Hamline offers one of the few
opportunities for such a comprehensive educational
“We really set ourselves apart from other law schools
through our innovation. We’re willing to try new things and
take risks, things you’d more typically find at a New York or
Washington D.C.-based law school.” Garon said.
The program’s success is already clear.
“This program has totally changed my attitude towards the
concept of delivering justice,” Indian student V.R. Gopu said
after completing the first part of the program.
Even regular Hamline students who don’t study abroad
benefit. “We can’t take every Hamline student abroad, but they
can take classes with students from other cultures,” McAdoo
“International students help the American students get
beyond the myopic vision that they sometimes have, the idea
that the way Americans do things is the only way. They bring
up in classes why something wouldn’t work in their culture …
it’s an incredibly important insight for American students to
For more information on the Hamline University School of
Law’s Dispute Resolution Institute, please visit http://www.hamline.edu/law/school_of_law.html.
Breanne Hanson Hegg MANM ’04 is executive director of
creative services at Hamline.