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25 Years Later, MU School of Law Continues to Lead Dispute Resolution Education

Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution receives national attention

Jan. 14, 2010

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430

COLUMBIA, Mo. – With lower transaction costs and quicker turnaround, alternative dispute resolution, settling disputes outside of court, has become an integral part of law both in practice and education. As one of the first law programs to integrate alternative dispute resolution into the curriculum in the 1980s, the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution (CSDR) at the University of Missouri School of Law has shaped this growing field for the past 25 years and is a model for the future.

“We want our students to think differently about how they would serve as lawyers and advocates after they graduate. Prior to this, the prevailing philosophy was that law students came to law school to learn how to be tough litigators,” said James Levin, associate director of the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution. “We wanted students to think more about what a lawyer does. What does it really mean to help and serve as an advocate for clients? In some cases, litigation might not be the best bet and we encourage students to look for other options. If we can understand what our clients need, we can find the best forums that meet those needs.”

When the program was established at MU in 1984, it became one of the first programs of its kind. The field of dispute resolution was in early development stages. Professors at MU revolutionized the curriculum by integrating dispute resolution into all first-year courses. Today, alternative dispute resolution is integral in law and similar programs have become mainstream.

Yesterday, the CSDR was given the “Problem Solving in Law School” award for 2009 by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution.  The award program recognizes achievements in alternative dispute resolution. The judges for the awards include judges and lawyers from top firms, corporations and academic institutions across the U.S. An individual award, Best Professional Article, also was presented to S.I Strong, associate professor of law and senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution, for her article “The Sounds of Silence.”

The CSDR continues to forge new ground in the dispute resolution field.  In 1999, the law school established the nation’s first Master of Laws program in Dispute Resolution, through which more than 123 students from 28 countries have graduated.  MU remains one of the few schools that offer such a degree.  The law school also houses the Journal of Dispute Resolution, a student edited, bi-annual academic journal that publishes articles written by both students and nationally recognized authors in the field of dispute resolution. It is one of the leading legal publications in the area of alternative dispute resolution.

“Alternative dispute resolution is answering a need and, in some ways, anticipating the needs of individuals and businesses,” said John Lande, director of the Master of Laws in Dispute Resolution program and Isidor Loeb Professor of Law. “To avoid litigation in courts and lower the cost is part of dispute resolution. However, we also challenge students to find a better way to do things more efficiently, in a way that will satisfy people’s interests and needs better to preserve relationships and do things that are more consistent with business needs.”

In an effort to continue the scholarship of professional judges and lawyers, the CSDR holds 3-day training sessions on dispute resolution. The CSDR also hosts a symposium at least once a year to bring nationally acclaimed speakers to the school, giving students exposure to prominent professionals in the fields. 

“As we look to our next 25 years, it is important to present our students with the best information and be a resource and model for our colleagues and professionals who are looking to enhance the field of law,” said Bob Bailey, assistant dean and director of the CSDR. “We need to continually search for the best ways to serve our clients, and dispute resolution is one area that is constantly evolving. Having these scholars here in one place allows us to utilize their expertise as we train the next generation for the legal profession.”

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