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My Favorite Resource Featuring Peter Salem

Nicole Wilmet, December 26th, 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 Peter Salem, Executive Director of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts to learn about his favorite resource.

NW: What is your favorite ADR Resource?

PS: My favorite ADR resources are my phone and computer, because they contain the contacts for the network that I have developed over the last 30+ years. There are a lot of great blogs, websites, journals, and other print and electronic resources out there, but knowing who to ask often helps me uncover valuable nuggets that I would not have otherwise known about.

NW: How did you develop your network and what recommendations do you have for anyone looking to develop their own network? 

PS: My father preceded me in the field and introduced me to many of his colleagues, so I had a head start. But I also learned from him and expanded my circle. I attended conferences, asked questions, used the telephone instead of email (full disclosure: email did not exist when I started), developed project ideas, and asked for advice and help. I volunteered for everything; newsletters, committees, boards, and conference planning. After a while, I started teaching and training. That’s a lot of extra work on top of a full-time job, and a lot of the money came out of my pocket, but it gave me the opportunity to invite others to teach, write, or work on projects, and they typically said yes. Because I was often part of the planning group, I was invited to the small dinners, etc., when the rock star ADR people came to Wisconsin. I would later see them at national conferences and we would already have a connection, and everything flowed from there. I didn’t plan this, of course. I just took on interesting projects with people I liked. So I guess my recommendation for others looking to establish a network is get involved and do interesting things with interesting people. Start small and locally, and do an amazing job. People notice great work, mediocre work and especially work that is not completed.

NW: In what ways have you found that your network has been better able to serve your needs than a traditional print resource?

PS: I use my network to help solve problems and answer questions, and for me that is an iterative process. Websites and journal articles provide valuable information, but they are just a starting point, not something to be taken at face value. We are in a field that advises people to dig beneath the surface and look at underlying issues. Why wouldn’t I follow that advice when working on my own stuff?

NW: Can you share an example of when you turned to your network for support?

PS: As the executive director of a 5,300-member organization, I frequently get requests for information or referrals that I can’t answer myself. But I have access to a lot of experts and can easily put a handful of names in an email to people with the requisite expertise. People appreciate any answer and are even more excited to get a response from a leading ADR author, researcher or practitioner. Similarly, there are some great listservs out there that serve the same function, albeit in a less targeted fashion. For example, the Bestinterests-talk list is an independent list run by an AFCC member for people in family law/dispute resolution. There is an amazing exchange of information and ideas.

NW: What do you value most about the input you receive from your network? 

PS: The input from my network is always thoughtful, honest, and it comes from experienced professionals with a very high level of expertise. That is invaluable. But what I value even more is that my network exemplifies the incredible generosity of dispute resolution professionals. Throughout my career, leaders in the field have been willing to take the time and effort to help me learn and grow. And to paraphrase my good friend Susan Yates (a long-time member of my network), now that I am more senior in the field, I hope that I am following in their footsteps.

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

A Look Back on 2018

Nicole Wilmet, December 21st, 2018

What a wonderful year 2018 has been! From court program evaluations and trainings to celebrating Resolution Systems Institute Day, we have had an exciting year and continued to great make strides in serving communities with court alternative dispute resolution! As RSI’s Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, I have had the pleasure to share each exciting moment with you this year. To culminate 2018, I am looking back on all of RSI’s monumental moments this year.

This was a hallmark year for AboutRSI.org with several new resources added to our Resource Center. March brought the launch of Mediation Efficacy Studies, the most comprehensive collection of resources on the subject of court alternative dispute resolution effectiveness. This summer, Director of Research Jennifer Shack published her evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s Child Protection Mediation Program, and we shared our Model Tools for Mediator Peer Review.

This fall, we released two new chapters to our Guide to Program Success, a step-by step guide from Executive Director Susan Yates and Jennifer Shack that discusses how to design, manage and evaluate a successful court ADR program. We also collaborated with the National Association for Community Mediation to share a Community Mediation Special Topic that explains the basics of community mediation, explores the relationship between courts and community mediation centers, delves into the important activities of data tracking and evaluation and compiles exemplary studies on the effectiveness of community mediation.

Finally, we rounded out our year of new resources with Jennifer Shack’s program evaluation of the eight foreclosure mediation programs funded by the Illinois Attorney General and developed a digital summary of the evaluation.

In 2018, we also launched our series My Favorite Resource that collects resources from our court ADR friends across the country. I would like to thank Heather Kulp, Debora Denny, Doug Van Epps, Missy Greathouse, Rebecca Price, Raeshann Canady, Kevin Malone, Catherine Geyer, Annalise Buth, Renee Salmon, and Peter Salem for participating in our inaugural year. I have truly enjoyed learning about each of your favorite ADR resources and network groups and I look forward to connecting with more friends this year!

This year was also a milestone year for our foreclosure mediation programs here in Illinois as our five-year grant from the Illinois Attorney General ended. Under the grant, RSI developed and administered foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois’ Lake, Kane, Winnebago, and Boone counties; trained mediators for all Attorney General-funded foreclosure mediation programs throughout the state; developed an online case management and monitoring system for those programs; and conducted two statewide evaluations of the programs. We are happy to report that all three of RSI’s foreclosure mediation programs will continue to operate thanks to the support of their local courts. RSI’s Kevin Malone and Olga Kordonskaya will continue to administer our programs in Kane County and Lake County, respectively, and moving forward, the court will administer the foreclosure mediation program in Winnebago & Boone counties. We consider the continuation of the programs as evidence of their success given that the courts value these programs enough to continue to provide funding for them. We are grateful to the Attorney General for supporting these programs, to the courts for their partnership and to the skilled mediators for conducting the mediations.

Last, but certainly not least, we also celebrated several important events this year. In April, we welcomed Grace Barter as our new Administrative Assistant. On July 11, 2018, Rockford, Illinois Mayor Thomas McNamara declared that day as Resolution Systems Institute Day in honor of RSI’s work on foreclosure mediation in the Rockford community. That same month, we celebrated Kent Lawrence, founder and steadfast supporter of RSI, for receiving the Decalogue Society of Lawyer’s Hon. Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award. The Hon. Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals whose excellence and dedication demonstrate commitment to justice by serving the community.

In September, we celebrated our one-year anniversary of the new AboutRSI.org, and Eric Slepak-Cherney was named RSI’s new Associate Director. In November, Jennifer Shack was appointed to the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution Research Advisory Committee and this month, Olga Kordonskaya and Kevin Malone celebrated their five-year anniversary with RSI.

As December comes to a close, I know that each of us here at RSI is thankful for a wonderful 2018. We look forward to all that awaits in 2019!

RSI December Staff Gathering

Nicole Wilmet, December 18th, 2018

This month, to celebrate 2018, our staff gathered in our Chicago office for our annual Staff Holiday Gathering! Our day started with an interesting and informative discussion with Director of Research Jennifer Shack as she reported on the findings from her evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s Child Protection Mediation Program. In the afternoon, we braced the cold Chicago weather to visit to the Christkindlmarket and tour the Chicago Design Museum’s “Keep Moving: Designing Chicago’s Bicycle Culture” exhibit.

Although some of us are based in our Chicago office, our RSI staff are also hard at work operating programs across Illinois and working remotely from Maine and Michigan. As such, our holiday gathering was a wonderful opportunity for us to come together and connect in one place. We are very much looking forward to the staff gatherings to come in 2019!

My Favorite Resource Featuring Renee Salmon

Nicole Wilmet, December 4th, 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 Renee Salmon, Legal Assistant for the Minnesota Judicial Branch Alternative Dispute Resolution Program to learn about her favorite resource.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources?

RS: My favorite resource is the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts website www.afccnet.org.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

RS:  I value this resource for three reasons:

  1. The links are almost always up-to-date and relevant. The resources contained on this site involve primarily family law ADR. It is a centralized place to go for guidelines, best practices, news and updates in ADR nationwide.
  2. You do not have to be a member in order to access the links and resources on this site.
  3. The resources on this website are applicable and relevant for both the public and ADR professionals.

NW: How did you first learn about resource?

RS: I can’t remember exactly. I believe I stumbled upon it while researching ADR online. I was already familiar with the association, but was not aware of the vast amounts of helpful resources and articles posted on its site.

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

RS: The tab on the top of the site called “Resource Center”. You will find relevant and up-to-date practice guidelines and standards and resources for both ADR professionals and families in one spot. I have this site in my favorites to refer to when gaining understanding all the flavors of ADR processes used in family law nationwide.

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

Utah Small Claims Court Launches New Online Dispute Resolution Pilot Program

Nicole Wilmet, December 3rd, 2018

In September, the Utah Supreme Court initiated an online dispute resolution (“ODR”) pilot program. The pilot program, which is housed at Utah’s West Valley City Justice Court, handles the court’s small claims cases. In its standing order announcing the program, the Utah Supreme Court says it believes that the new pilot program “will increase the participation rate of parties, assist the parties in resolving their disputes, and improve the quality and presentation of evidence at trial in those matters that cannot be resolved.”

Under the new program, plaintiffs must now either register for the court’s new ODR system within seven days of filing their claim or file a request for exemption from ODR. After being served with a claim, defendants will have fourteen days to either register for an ODR account or seek an exemption from participating in ODR. Parties will only be excused from participating in the ODR program for undue hardships. The court notes that undue hardships exist when parties are unable to access the online system without substantial difficulty or expense.

Parties utilizing the ODR system will work with a facilitator who will guide the parties through the ODR process and assist them in reaching a settlement. Facilitators will inform the parties of the process to be followed, the types of communications that parties may use, and establish timelines for the parties. Additionally, facilitators may request that the parties provide information and evidence about the merits of the case, their ability to pay, responses to the other party’s information, and their position on any proposed resolution of the plaintiff’s claim. Facilitators are also able to communicate privately with any party, at any time, for the purposes of facilitating a resolution.

Should the parties reach a settlement, they then may request their facilitator to prepare their online settlement agreement form, which will detail the terms of their agreement. Once completed, the court will enter the judgement. In the event that the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the facilitator will notify the court and the court will schedule a trial date for the parties. More information about the pilot program, including access to the court’s forms, may be found here.