– Dr Julie Macfarlane & Dr Bernie Mayer – SRL Challenges (1.5 hrs)

…for mediators, lawyers and other dispute resolution professionals: How do we recognise and embrace change in our practices and our institutions? 
1.30 in Wilarra-Marra

Other sessions in this timeslot
Investment treaty.. 45 min
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The ability of professionals and professions to ask hard questions of ourselves, and to look at our shortcomings openly and frankly and with an eye to improvement, is critical to both personal growth and social change. This is especially important in confronting the need for reform in the justice system and the legal profession, where there is now clear evidence of widespread disaffection with the justice system, and particularly the family justice system. This is reflected in the cynicism and dissatisfaction often expressed about the legal profession itself.

How professionals hear and evaluate this criticism is extremely important to addressing the underlying issues it represents.

Some of this criticism is sound, some reactive and misinformed. Many lawyers provide clients with excellent service that helps the clients through extremely difficult circumstances. Regardless of how fair the negativity is, it poses a challenge to professionals and professional organisations to respond appropriately, to be willing to look at their own shortcomings and to be open to legitimate criticism without being overly reactive to displaced anger or misdirected attacks. This is a very difficult line to walk.

In this workshop we shall look at some of the critiques that have been raised about the functioning of the justice system, the legal profession, and the alternative dispute resolution field. We shall also look at the responses that professionals and professional organisations make to these criticisms. We want to talk about how we can walk the fine line of being our own best critics and yet not succumb to gratuitous lawyer-bashing or mediator deprecating.

We shall present several case studies of efforts to respond to important criticism of a profession or field of practice and consider what has made some of these responses more effective than others. We shall specifically consider (1) the critiques of the justice system generated by research into the experience of self-represented litigants, (2) the response of (some parts of) the dispute resolution community to critiques from domestic violence advocates and (3) the response of mediators to critiques of how mediation is being used or not used in  legal disputes.

We aim to suggest some principles for developing responsible and yet powerful professional critiques, and how to respond to reactive and defensive claims of “bashing” even in the face of responsible criticism. At a more fundamental level we want to discuss how we can promote a candid dialogue that is realistic, respectful, honest, and effective in confronting the many forces demanding change in our approach to providing access to justice and conflict intervention services.

Get to know Julie & Bernie
Julie MacfarlaneJulie Macfarlane
Julie is a Full Professor in the Faculty of Law, and was awarded a University of Windsor Professorship (the highest honour of the University) 2014. Julie has published widely in the area of conflict resolution, mediation, and legal practice. She is the author of the bestselling The New Lawyer: How Settlement is Transforming the Practice of Law (University of British Colombia Press 2008). Her student textbook Dispute Resolution: Readings and Case Studies is just going into its 4th edition (Emond Montgomery 2015). Both these texts are used widely in law schools throughout North America. In 2012 Julie completed a four year empirical study of Islamic divorce and published Islamic Divorce in North America: A Shari’a Path in a Secular Society (Oxford University Press), attracting much public and media interest. Her new project is the National Self-Represented Litigants Project established at Windsor Law in the wake of the momentum created by her national study of self-representation, published in 2013. Professor Macfarlane is also an active mediator and dispute resolution consultant to a wide range of organisations and government agencies.bernie-mayer-120Bernie Mayer, Ph.D., Professor of Dispute Resolution, The Werner Institute, Creighton University, is a leader in the field of conflict resolution. Bernie has worked in child welfare, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and psychotherapy. As a founding partner of CDR Associates, Bernie has provided conflict intervention for families, communities, universities, corporations, and governmental agencies throughout North America and internationally for over 35 years. Bernie’s latest book (January 2015) is The Conflict Paradox, Seven Dilemmas at the Core of Disputes. Earlier books include: The Dynamics of Conflict, Beyond Neutrality, and Staying With Conflict.

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