For several years, law firms, companies and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers have placed diversity and inclusion center stage of their everyday practices. Employers are constantly trying to hire and retain diverse talent at all levels. With all of this focus on diversity, are we satisfied with where we are? We’re definitely making progress. Can we do more? Absolutely.
Many organizations have attempted to urge companies to make diversity and inclusion a priority by creating resolutions and other initiatives. For example, the American Bar Association (ABA) has adopted Resolution 105, which is “aimed at increasing diversity in dispute resolution.” It states:
“That the American Bar Association urges providers of domestic and international dispute resolution to expand their rosters with minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and persons of differing sexual orientations and gender identities (“diverse neutrals”) and to encourage the selection of diverse neutrals; and…urges all users of domestic and international legal and neutral services to select and use diverse neutrals.”
The ABA and JAMS both believe that enhancing diversity in dispute resolution is a crucial element of increasing diversity in the legal community as a whole. With that said, in order to increase diversity in ADR, this community may need to take a closer look at new approaches. At this juncture, many companies and law firms have made a concerted effort to assure their legal teams represent diversity. Companies have tied a financial withholding and or incentive to assure diversity goals are met. Can this model work for arbitral institutions? If companies required diversity with their vendors, would that help move the needle? I think that it will help spark change and make diversity a qualifying proponent within the discussion of neutral selections.
The ABA resolution has advanced the dialogue around diversity in ADR. This resolution not only attempts to increase commitment from the legal community to discuss diversity with panelists, but it also provides a call to action. JAMS was the first ADR provider to create an inclusion rider option in its clauses in support of businesses’ diversity efforts when selecting a neutral. It states:
“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.”
JAMS is committed to the recruitment and retention of diverse neutrals. Diversity among our panel firmly enhances the quality of the services we can provide and allows for a wider perspective. While the inclusion rider will certainly assist with diversity efforts, the main focus must be inclusion. Diversifying a panel of neutrals is always good, but getting them appointed is the ultimate goal.
In order to push this initiative, JAMS is dedicated to planning roundtables with law firms, companies and diversity and inclusion officers to not only continue the dialogue, but also create a call to action. We recognize that change can take time, but seeing real progress is well worth the wait.
As the Diversity Program Manager at JAMS, Joanne Saint Louis works collaboratively across JAMS to further the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals. Her key responsibilities include bringing on high-caliber, diverse neutrals to the JAMS panel and working with law firms, in-house counsel and affinity bar organizations to diversify the selection of mediators and arbitrators. She is based in the Atlanta Resolution Center.