How We Got Here – Launching ADR Notable

The experience that led us to develop automation for mediators.

During my three years as the general counsel for the International Air Transport Association, the global airline industry trade association, I became convinced that the industry would benefit from greater use of all forms of alternative dispute resolution, much like the construction industry. After leaving IATA, I continued to work on that idea with the outstanding faculty at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University. During that collaboration, Professor Nancy Rogers suggested I take a 3-day practical mediation training course taught by Professor Joseph (“Josh”) Stulberg.

The course included mock mediation sessions. Trying to take notes during a simple mock landlord-tenant dispute, I found myself with the four or five issues in the dispute spread over several pages of notes, a proposal from one party on one page and key facts on still others. Just trying to work one issue, I was running out of fingers stuck into the pages of the legal pad where I’d written the pieces of a potential agreement. And when I completed one issue, I had to flip pages back and forth to scan the remaining issues and choose the next one to pursue with the parties.

If only I had my notes in digital form, I thought, I could manage the information in a much more efficient way. My focus shifted to building just such a capability.

Capturing notes with the flexibility of a computer instead of immutably on a legal pad should have many advantages, and this note-taking feature is the core of ADR Notable. For each note, you can easily keep track of who said it and record the content of the note and the type of note (issue, proposal, fact, principle, etc.). You can link notes, e.g. the proposal to the issue or issues it addresses. You can arrange issues in the order you wish rather than the order in which they occurred, search for key words, and filter the view to see your notes in the most helpful way, e.g. only issues, only things said by one party and so on.

Then we placed the note-taking function into the mediation process. We plan to add scheduling, documentation of conflict of interest check, repository for relevant documents, session and caucus timers, a text editor to convert notes into full text settlement terms, even digital signature capability and other small features to make life easier for the mediator.

The advantages seem obvious, but so does the challenge. Can we design the user interface to make it so simple to use that it doesn’t distract the mediator’s focus on the participants? We understand how important it is for the mediator to listen, observe and communicate during a mediation session. Our proposed solution is intended to work alongside those human skills.

We are testing the concept with experienced mediators now. If we receive a positive response, we will focus on the interface design until we achieve the ease of use needed to support the mediator without distraction. There is a place on this website where you can volunteer to test this product. Thanks for your interest, and stay tuned.

Related Posts