For WOL Members interested in ADR and Advancing Women Entrepreneurs

By M. Echevarria, ADR LLC.

As a member of the ABA's Women in Dispute Resolution Committee (aka "WIDR"), a subcommittee within the Section on Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") I found my path to becoming a neutral was not that different from other committee members. While I had been a FINRA Arbitrator for years handling securities disputes in aid of my practice in the financial services industry as an Insurance Attorney and, or Chief Compliance Officer, once I embarked on developing a full time career in the area I had to ensure that I was properly trained in the process. Quality training is widely available at schools (Pepperdine University), bar association programs (NYCBA) and by service providers such as the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). Since my interest and prior career was commercially oriented after the basic 40 hour training required for process orientation in mediation, I took specific additional training in Commercial Arbitration and Mediation. At minimum, the court annexed programs require the 40 hour training program and prior experience as a mediator (See, Part 146 Requirements). Frankly I still continue annual training not only because of licensing requirements but also because the law in dispute resolution matters is very dynamic and continues to be a growing area of practice for many lawyers. Witness the fact that mediation and arbitration courses are now offered in many law schools. That was not the case when I went to Law School.

I think to be an effective neutral, you should also have significant experience as an attorney and expertise in a specific area(s) of law. It helps you establish credibility and aids in your networking and marketing efforts as you develop your practice. Clients want to know that you have had prior experience with the framework and legal issues you are confronted with either as a decision maker when you are an Arbitrator or when helping resolve party disputes as a Mediator. Service Providers such as the AAA, CPR, JAMS and even the Court-annexed programs (federal or state, for e.g. NY's Presumptive ADR Program) all have experience requirements in addition to requiring relevant training. The AAA for example has at least a 10 year experience requirement before accepting you on their roster. One way to acquire experience as an Arbitrator or Mediator is as an adjunct to your current practice of law by qualifying or volunteering within the Court annexed programs, either state or federal (NY Commercial Division/SDNY/EDNY).

WOL Members have a great opening to support women/diverse neutrals not only because of the organizations' commitment to diversity and inclusivity but equally important because it offers the opportunity to support and advance women entrepreneurs in the law. The expanding practice of ADR in our society due to the inclusion of relevant clauses in all kinds of commercial, construction, IP, employment/labor and consumer contracts affords members not only the opportunity to expand their practices as advocates but also to support women already engaged in ADR as entrepreneurs. The AAA alone indicates on its website that as of 9/28/20 it has resolved 289,221 cases! Support for ADR entrepreneurs can be executed in a number of ways. For example, if engaged as an advocate in a case being administered by a service provider you can request that the strike list have an appropriate representation of women neutrals if you are not satisfied with the list provided. If you are engaged as an advocate in a case that is non-administered, you can with the agreement of your client select from a list of women neutrals provided by the ABA-WIDR committee covering expertise in various areas of the law. (View the 2020 directory here). Another opportunity to advance women neutrals lies in client contract drafting when relevant to your client's needs by adapting one of the various clauses adopted by service providers promoting diversity by ADR users. (For e.g. See, JAMS Website offers this Diversity Clause: The parties agree that, wherever practicable, they will seek to appoint a fair representation of diverse arbitrators (considering gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation), and will request administering institutions to include a fair representation of diverse candidates on their rosters and list of potential arbitrator appointees.)

WOL is committed to building diversity within its ranks and the marketplace, collaborating with ADR professionals will serve both of these interests. Building strong connections within the community of women professionals will only serve to strengthen the reach and influence of women in general. As a WOL and WIDR member I see a bright future in our working toward a common goal.


The views expressed are the personal views of the author and not those of Dispute Resolution section of the ABA and/or any of its committees

About the Author:

Ms. Echevarria’s involvement in complex negotiations and transactions have spanned the rehabilitation of one of the largest United States insurer in the 1990s’, the merger of two major financial services corporations, and the launch of a partnership at her last employer with a premier Independent Marketing Group which included a network of distribution firms, a reinsurance company and an investment adviser. Concurrently, Ms. Echevarria’s career in the insurance industry has involved numerous product development and launch initiatives; substantial contract reviews, drafting and negotiations; and many corporate governance projects. As an Insurance Attorney, Ms. Echevarria’s experience has included transactional, labor, copyright and trademark matters, regulatory and government affairs, consumer issues, compliance and litigation. 

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