Putting Diversity into (Your) Practice

Posted on: Wed, 01/15/2020

By: Jeffrey T. Zaino, Esq., Vice President, AAA Commercial Division
Mansi Karol, Esq., Director of ADR Services, AAA

Whether or not an organization has taken a formal diversity pledge—and many have-- eliminating bias and enhancing diversity make good sense—and good business sense.

Reflecting today’s increasingly global society and work force is a conscientious as well as practical imperative. Companies and law firms can demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion through their dispute resolution process.

At the outset of an arbitration or a mediation, in-house counsel can partner with outside counsel to ensure that diverse arbitrators and mediators are considered and selected for their cases. They can achieve that by working with an arbitral organization that documents the percentage of minorities and women on its panels and can provide lists of panelists to parties that comprise at least a certain percentage of diverse candidates.

However, it is not simply an issue of providing diverse panelists. The arbitrators and mediators provided must meet the qualifications and criteria established for the particular panel appropriate to the case specifications.

The important numbers are:

The percentage of women and minorities on the roster of arbitrators and mediators.

The percentage of diverse candidates that meets the qualifications and criteria established for the particular panel and
case specifications.

On a more macro basis, arbitral organizations, law firms, and companies can work with national and state bar associations to recruit qualified diverse arbitrator and mediators. Most national, state, and city bar associations have very active diversity committees willing to collaborate on diversity initiatives. For example, the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association sponsors the Women in Dispute Resolution Committee, which meets frequently and organizes educational programs. Bar associations also exist for specific diverse groups, such as the National Bar Association--the nation’s oldest and largest association of black lawyers and judges, the South Asian Bar Association, the National Association of Minority & Women-Owned Law Firms, and the LGBTQ Bar Association.

The ADR Inclusion Network, another type of alliance, formed in New York City in 2017 to bring together representatives of the major arbitral institutions, top law firms, and federal and state court systems with the objectives to:

  • Increase the use, visibility, and availability of diverse neutrals,
  • Promote growth of prospective diverse neutrals, and
  • Serve as a resource on inclusion and diversity in alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

By convening the major ADR players, the ADR Inclusion Network has had great success recruiting diverse arbitrators and mediators and executing annual diversity programs and roundtable discussions.

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