Skating to where the puck is going to be: The future of ADR, and what teachers need to do to prepare their students for it

At the latest ABA Section of Dispute Resolution conference in NYC, I participated in a panel trying to envision the future of the field of ADR. Not that I would ordinarily suggest convening groups of prophets in order to say things that will likely seem silly a couple of years later, but the idea here was to grapple with a single proposition: Change is more likely to happen in our field, than not. What might that change look like? And, no matter what it turns out to look like, how can we embed change-anticipation into our practice and our outlook on the field?

As this session was part of the legal educators colloquium - the ADR and conflict teachers' annual get-together on the last day (always my favorite part of the conference!), our focus was on how to prepare our students for the field of ADR as they will encounter it in the future, rather than for whatever experience of the field of ADR their teachers have had. I think the questions we posed were interesting - but were outstripped, by far, by the conversation that developed amongst all of the session's attendees. 

John Lande, who participated in the panel together with Cynthia Alkin, Lydia Nussbaum and myself, has written up the session experience on his blog at Check it out below!



John Lande

At the ABA SDR conference this year, Cynthia AlkonNoam Ebner,Lydia Nussbaum and I did a session at the Legal Educators Colloquium entitled Preparing Students for the Future of Dispute Resolution:  Skating to “Where the Puck Is Going, Not Where It’s Been.

   (I worried that no one would show up because it was the last session on Saturday afternoon, but we had a great group.  Thanks to everyone who came.)

The title of our session was based on a quote by hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who said he always tried to skate “to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Analogizing the puck to the legal and dispute resolution fields, this program addressed where we are going and how, as legal educators, we can best prepare our students to “skate” there.

We promised to collect and disseminate ideas from the session and here they are.   There were a lot of ideas, so this is a long-ish post – but I think it should be worth your time.

The speakers gave brief presentations about our expectations about the future and most of the session was devoted to group discussion.


Over the past 10-20 years, we have become used to technological changes.  However, far less attention has been dedicated to anticipating broad social changes in the future.

Most of us probably don’t spend a lot of time wondering what the future will be like – and what we need to do today to prepare for it.

The status quo bias – our tendency to assume that things will generally stay pretty much the same – might easily affect us.   For example, when planning our daily to-do lists, we generally plan to do things assuming that things won’t be much different from last week, last month, etc.   People have made very embarrassing predictions of the future in general, with one particular subtype are predictions that assume that “everything will stay the same.”

Even though the future is hard to predict, change is likely.   As a result, we suggest that anticipating change should be more central to how and what we teach.   Anticipating change, we might revise our ideas of what is important and what we should be doing and teaching.   Change-anticipation is a form of thinking that might be beneficial, at least each time we prepare our syllabus for the coming semester.

We prepare our students for professional work in the legal and DR fields.  To what extent do we prepare them to fill the roles we have been familiar with in the past or to provide the services that we view as being currently typical of these fields?   And to what extent are we forecasting the future of these fields and preparing students to engage in them as they will be after our students graduate and throughout their professional careers?

As legal and DR educators, are we preparing our students to skate to where their “puck” is going? 

Read the rest here!

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