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New Tools for Mediator Peer Review

Eric Slepak-Cherney, July 20th, 2018

I’m excited to share with you all a new resource RSI put together for court ADR programs. Curiosity and self-reflection tend to be self-selecting criterion for successful mediators, so it’s not surprising that mediators often crave feedback about their performance and how they can improve. Fortunately for courts, that’s a great instinct, and one that should be nurtured through the use of a structured process whenever possible. To these ends, we at RSI put together some tools for program administrators to utilize in developing a peer-based review support system.

Peer review is a great way for mediators to develop new skills: as long as proper oversight exists to make sure bad habits aren’t proliferating, mediators can learn a tremendous amount from one another. Implementing a peer review system also has the added benefit of galvanizing a community of mediators. Perhaps most beneficially, peer review can function as quality assurance to ensure that the services people receive aren’t a form of second-class justice. Programs that serve self-represented, indigent and other underserved populations may be particularly keen to ensure quality services. (more…)

Foreclosure Mediation Saves 1,000 Homes in Illinois

Eric Slepak-Cherney, June 1st, 2018

In compiling the latest statistical report for the eight foreclosure mediation programs funded by the Illinois Attorney General, RSI discovered that, as of last year, the programs helped over 1,000 Illinois homeowners stay in their homes. That’s a tremendous accomplishment and much is owed to the talented program staff that administer these programs, the neutrals who mediate these cases, the housing counselors and legal aid attorneys who advise the homeowners, and the Office of the Attorney General whose belief in the power of mediation made this all possible.

About a quarter of the cases, and 5% of the total foreclosure filings, end in retention. While that might not sound like much, it’s worth bearing in mind that in many instances, there is a significant power imbalance between the homeowner and their lender. That fact makes it quite possible that without the guidance provided by the housing counselors and attorneys, and the channels of dialogue between borrower and lender opened by the program staff and mediators, these homeowners would have very little chance of prevailing in the traditional judicial foreclosure process. Therefore, a retention rate of that magnitude is a tremendous victory. (more…)

A Glitch In The Matrix: The Challenges of ODR

Eric Slepak-Cherney, April 19th, 2018

In my previous entry, I shared the features of online dispute resolution, or ODR, that had me excited about the myriad ways technology is shaping the way we approach dispute resolution. But as is so often the case with technology, the flip side of new opportunities is the potential for abuse (as the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony before Congress demonstrates). Here are my three biggest concerns I’ve identified in researching ODR and talking with courts about it.

ODR is Not a Crock-Pot
In an age where Amazon can reliably create our shopping lists for us and the timeline for self-driving cars to rule the road is being projected in years, not decades, it is tempting to think that the computerization of dispute resolution will be a fully automated process that will free our courts to just ‘set it and forget it.’ This canard, which has also plagued non-digital ADR as well in a slightly different format, presupposes that there is no need for regular human intervention.

In reality, implementing ODR into our courts will not only require a watchful eye, but probably several sets of them. The recent requirement to e-file cases in my home state of Illinois provides a good example. Circuit Court clerks across the state geared up for nearly two years to launch this change, and many are still working through a transition period where they are still utilizing paper filings as a redundancy and staffing personnel to help answer litigant questions.

Beware the Crock-Pot. Image: NBC

Similar precautions, and then some, would be needed to introduce ODR into a court ecosystem. There would need to be rigorous education and outreach offering, both prior to and coinciding with program launch. Staff would need to be available to address technical issues and procedural questions. Ongoing monitoring to assess the program’s success, making necessary adjustments to the program, and reporting back to judges and court administration are all aspects that require human intervention. While that involvement may decrease over time, ODR is not a crock-pot: you can’t just throw everything together, hit start and expect things to work out.

(more…)

Do Android Mediators Dream of Electric Agreements?

Eric Slepak-Cherney, January 30th, 2018

With the new year being still fresh enough that some of us, and hopefully not just me, continue to write 2017 on their checks, the future is at the forefront of many of our minds. Whether we’re setting ambitious goals for the year to come, or just looking forward to putting the previous year behind us, I think it’s pretty natural for us to spend this time of year fixated on the road ahead. For me, this has translated into thinking a lot about the cutting edge of the ADR field: Online Dispute Resolution, or ODR. (more…)

Takeaways from a Child Protection Mediator Training

Eric Slepak-Cherney, February 6th, 2017

On January 20-21, RSI put on an advanced two-day training for the mediators in our new Child Protection Mediation Program operating out of Geneva, IL. This training was the culmination of our efforts to put in place a dynamic and collaborative new forum to address child abuse and neglect cases in Illinois’ 16th Judicial Circuit Court. Based on the outcome of the training, I feel confident that our new program will be a huge boon to Kane County, the jurisdiction which the program serves. I also am glad to have taken away some ideas about how to create a better mediator training event, which I get to share with all of you. (more…)