LAWS3314 Alternative Dispute Resolution in Practice

Lecturer: Rosemary Howell

What is the course about?

This course investigates the principles and practices of Alternative Dispute Resolution with an experiential learning focus.

Students explore the processes on the ADR continuum generally and then engage in:

  • A facilitation
  • 4 mediations and
  • A community consultation

They are also introduced to tools from the Harvard Program on Negotiation and have the opportunity to practise using relevant tools.

Other key elements of the program include the opportunity to investigate external influences on dispute resolution processes including group dynamics, behavioural preferences and the impact of technology.

Do you have any advice to give students who are interested in taking this course?

Most legal disputes are resolved at or before ‘the door of the court’ and the growing interest of the courts and the legislature to divert conflicts from the court system has given great impetus to ADR development. It is a fast developing field and involves the development of non-traditional legal skills.

Do you have any other comments?

This course is not for students whose passion is black letter law. While the course does cover the growing number of cases which have emerged around ADR practices and processes, this is a practical and experiential program focussed not on what the law is but on what the practice of law might be.

There is a strong emphasis on building collaborative learning skills which provides an experience that many students have not previously had the opportunity to engage in effectively.

How will this course be relevant in the future?

ADR is the future of legal practice and it is a great opportunity for students to engage in skills development which is relevant and counter-intuitive. Employers also value students with these skills and an understanding of how lawyers will deal with conflicts in the future.

Student: Michael Tran

What did you enjoy most about the elective?
I really enjoyed the interactive learning environment. Most of the learning in this course comes from participation in class activities including mock negotiations, mediations and community discussions. You will learn more if you actively participate. The way this course runs also provides an opportunity to apply the theory you have learnt. Even the group presentation encourages you to think outside the box. I don’t think you will encounter another course in your law degree that will be as interactive as this course, with the possible exception of LAWS8980: Principled Negotiation.

What did you find most challenging?
This course really changed how I think and I found it difficult to adapt. In other law courses I learnt to think in a very linear way. This course however, required me to put aside that approach and think outside the box. There is no correct approach in this course and it was up to me to make the decision. If you are someone who enjoys complicating a problem or would like to change how you think, then this course is perfect for you.

How will this course be relevant in the future?
There is currently a shift away from litigation and towards alternative dispute resolution methods. This course will help you develop an understanding of these alternative mechanisms. Even if you don’t end up practising law, you will have the knowledge to assist you choose the appropriate dispute resolution process if you encounter any conflicts