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 Rebecca Price, the Director of ADR Program at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), to learn about her favorite ADR resource.
NW: What is your favorite ADR Resource?
RP: My favorite ADR resources are my colleagues in and around other court ADR programs. This includes the relatively small number of other full time directors of federal district court ADR programs, the Federal Judicial Center, the local Community Dispute Resolution Center programs, and the SDNY Mediator Advisory Committee. Many of these people have been doing this work for decades and have nuanced and practical perspectives about court-annexed ADR.
NW: Can you share an example of when you turned to your network for support?
RP: There are so many! As a recent example, the SDNY is currently exploring automatic protocols for both personal injury and disability access cases. I reached out to colleagues in other federal courts for information about existing protocols and am working with the SDNY Mediator Advisory Committee to develop draft protocols. In 2013, the SDNY partnered with the New York City Bar Association to develop a mediator evaluation protocol. One of our most useful resources was the Director of the Office of Court Alternative Dispute Resolution in Portland, Maine, whose protocol became the blueprint for ours.
NW: In what ways have you found that your network has been better able to serve your needs than a traditional print resource?
RP: The primary difference is that conversations are dynamic in ways that print resources are not. Designing and implementing ADR systems is complex and context dependent and a person resource can adjust recommendations based on specific constraints. For me, the ideal print resource would read more like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book than what is widely available. Having said that, I found the Maine program I referenced above in a footnote of a
journal article, so it’s important to cover your bases.
NW: What do you value most about the input you receive from other court personnel?
RP: It is so valuable to hear about what has worked or not, and why. There are some particularly special colleagues who can adjust their recommendations and information to the realities of different court programs. I also very much appreciate colleagues who speak candidly about mistakes. I learn from them and feel less isolated with my own challenges.
NW: How did you develop your network and what recommendations do you have for anyone looking to develop their own network?
RP: In an informal way, as I have worked in different places and with different people I have made connections with those I can reach out to and who can reach out to me. More intentionally, when I started my current position in 2012 there was no existing formal network for people in comparable roles. Through email and phone calls I was able to identify a group, create a listserv, and set up a date/time for monthly calls. I also realized early on that I would benefit greatly from an advisory committee of SDNY mediators. The first group created the protocols that have been followed by subsequent members, and we still meet monthly in person. What I would recommend for anyone wanting to build a network is that you create and maintain the space/time/modes of connection for the network itself, and that you commit to doing this for at least a couple of years if not more. It’s not magic, but someone needs to take responsibility for the consistency that allows networks to develop. Relatedly, the more you show up, engage, and support the efforts of others in and around your network, the more they will show up for you.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!