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Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

Two New Chapters of RSI’s Guide to Program Success Now Available!

Just Court ADR, September 12th, 2018

We are thrilled to announce that Chapters 8 and 9 of our Guide to Program Success are now available!

Our Guide to Program Success combines the expertise of Executive Director Susan Yates and Director of Research Jennifer Shack and discusses how to effectively design, manage, and evaluate successful court ADR programs. Newly released chapters 8 and 9 cover how to design the mechanics of a court ADR program and how to select and manage neutrals.

In addition to being available online, each chapter of our Guide to Program Success is also available to download for offline reading. If you are looking to design or improve a court ADR program, this is the step-by-step guide that you need.

Click here to start reading Chapters 8 and 9.

 

Eric Slepak-Cherney Named RSI Associate Director

Susan M. Yates, September 4th, 2018

I am pleased to announce the promotion of Eric Slepak-Cherney to the newly-created position of RSI Associate Director. In this position, Eric focuses on how to sustain and grow RSI in our mission to improve access to justice through court alternative dispute resolution. He has been with RSI since 2015 and with this promotion is now assisting with setting the strategic vision for RSI, coordinating the development and administration of the organization’s programs, and managing our fundraising activities.

Please join me in congratulating Eric and wishing him well in this new position!

Sincerely,

Susan M. Yates

End of One Era, Beginning of Another

Susan M. Yates, August 31st, 2018

August 31, 2018, will mark the end of an era at RSI. Our five-year foreclosure mediation grant from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General will come to an end.

This grant, which we received 15 years into our operation, was our opportunity to prove that when given sufficient resources, RSI could deliver the kind of quality court mediation program that we had been recommending to others all those years. I used terms like “practice what we preach,” “proof is in the pudding” and even, “put up or shut up!”

At that time, we promised to:

  • Work with courts and other stakeholders to design and operate three foreclosure mediation programs in three judicial circuits in northern Illinois
  • Develop and conduct training for mediators in our programs and those operated by our partner organizations farther downstate
  • Develop an online system to collect data about the programs enabling us to produce regular statistical reports and two comprehensive evaluations

I am happy to report that we delivered!

In the process, we confirmed some maxims about how to do quality court ADR and added a few corollaries.

  1. Study first

Before we start working with a court on their ADR program, we update our knowledge of the particular area in which we will be working. In this situation we researched what was happening across the country with foreclosure and how courts were using alternative approaches.

Corollary: Sometimes you have to build the plane while flying it. In the midst of a national foreclosure crisis, courts across the country were scrambling to keep up. While it was helpful to see what others were doing, we needed to figure out how to do foreclosure mediation in a way that worked in Illinois courts with their particular needs and resources.

  1. Work with stakeholders

We know that it is critical to bring together all the stakeholders while developing a court ADR system so that their various needs can be considered. In foreclosure mediation, the usual stakeholders – judges, court administrators, mediators and lawyers for both lenders and borrowers – were joined by a new addition: housing counselors, who were critical to the success of many of the programs.

Corollary: As important as it is to have all the voices heard, in the end, judges often have to make decisions about exactly how court ADR programs will work, and these decisions may not satisfy everyone. Fortunately, RSI doesn’t “have a dog in the fight,” so we can offer unbiased, expert advice about pros and cons of various approaches.

  1. Value the people who do the work

Never underestimate the importance of visible, capable staff. These programs are being continued because of dedicated program coordinators, who kept the cases moving and kept the courts informed of program progress, and because of skilled mediators who worked with intelligence and compassion in the midst of foreclosure – which is a crisis for each homeowner, even once the nation’s crisis has abated.

Corollary: These programs are not easy to administer. Juggling spinning plates is an apt metaphor for the challenge of administering programs with sometimes complex court rules that apply to everyone from sophisticated lawyers to overwhelmed homeowners.

  1. Collect and use reliable data

Turning data into meaningful information means different things to different stakeholders at different times. In the foreclosure mediation programs, we produced everything from monthly statistical reports for judges about numbers of cases in their programs and how they were being resolved to a mega-evaluation of all the programs that compared strengths of the various approaches and made recommendations about how each might improve.

Corollary: In a situation like this one in which every program was different, finding ways to make “apples to apples” comparisons was critical. Doing that successfully allowed RSI to make recommendations for improvement from a place of knowledge, not opinion.

Success and a New Era

September 1st will mark the beginning of a new era, as all three of our foreclosure mediation programs continue to operate thanks to the support of their local courts! We take this as the surest sign of success, that the courts value these programs enough to find a way to continue them when outside funding ends. We are grateful to the Attorney General for supporting these programs, to courts for their partnership and to the skilled mediators for conducting the mediations. We are pleased to continue to provide services to homeowners and their lenders when foreclosure looms.

Illinois Attorney General Funding for Foreclosure Mediation Ends After Five Impactful Years

Just Court ADR, August 30th, 2018

On August 31, 2018, a five-year grant to develop, operate and evaluate foreclosure mediation pilot programs across Illinois will conclude. Funded by settlements obtained by the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, this grant allowed Resolution Systems Institute and our partners statewide to assist over 1,000 homeowners in saving their homes and an additional 3,000 homeowners in sitting down with their lenders to get clarity about available options in addressing their foreclosures. We produced a comprehensive evaluation in 2015, and will be publishing a follow-up later this fall, which examine and contrast how different program models affect outcomes – making it a valuable resource not just for Illinoisans, but for ADR program administrators anywhere.

We are truly grateful to AG Madigan, our partners, stakeholders and the Illinois courts who made these outcomes possible.

AG Madigan speaking in 2014 as RSI Executive Director Susan Yates and Former Board President Hon. Morton Denlow (ret.) listen.

My Favorite Resource Featuring Kevin Malone

Nicole Wilmet, August 29th, 2018

Our series, My Favorite Resource, features interviews with our court ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite resource. This month, Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet spoke with Kevin Malone, RSI’s Program Manager for the 16th Circuit Kane County Child Protection and Foreclosure Mediation Programs to learn about his favorite ADR resource.

NW: What is your favorite ADR Resource?

KM: I have several that I rely on, but the one I return to time and again is The Making of a Mediator by Michael Lang and Alison Taylor.

NW: Why do you value this particular resources?

KM: This book provides a great process for bridging the gap between theory and practice. Lang and Taylor provide tools to figure out what a mediator is good at, what they need to work on, and how to find that sweet spot between developing a mediator’s skills and tapping into a mediator’s talents.

NW: How did you first learn about this resources?

KM: It was assigned reading for my graduate work at the University of Denver’s Center for Conflict Resolution. I revisited the book when I began working as a co-mediator for our Child Protection Mediation Program.

NW: For those unfamiliar with this resource, what is one part of this resource that you wouldn’t want someone to miss? 

KM: Lang and Taylor have a chapter that walks the reader through their “constellation of theories”. A mediator will be able to figure out what theories they have tucked away and how those theories impact their practice of mediation. I have found this to be a very powerful tool in self-assessment and recommend all the mediators in my program at least once try something similar.

If you have a favorite resource you would like to share in an upcoming edition of our newsletter, please reach out to our Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, Nicole Wilmet at nwilmet@aboutrsi.org!