Professor receives distinguished ABA award in dispute resolution

Published: February 18th, 2013

Category: News

Photo by Kristen Hines/Levin College of Law 2007By Jenna Box
Student writer

Suffering in law school is an unfriendly reminder that the high stress of conflict resolution can often get the best of a student. But a leading researcher and professor in alternative dispute resolution at the University of Florida Levin College of Law recognized this problem many years ago and researched an alternative tool to deal with even the trickiest of problems. All you need: a specific state of mindfulness.

His work has paid off, and he will soon be recognized by the American Bar Association for his scholarship and leadership in this field.

Leonard Riskin, Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law, will be honored with the ABA’s Section of Dispute Resolution award for Outstanding Scholarly Work on April 6 at the section’s 15th annual spring conference in Chicago.

This conference brings dispute resolution leaders, arbitrators, mediators, attorney advocates, neutral providers, consumers and scholars together to network and attend presentations and workshops.

Since coming to UF Law in 2007, Riskin has served as professor, mentor and director of the Initiative of Mindfulness in Law and Dispute Resolution. The ABA will honor him based on his extensive work in alternative dispute resolution with a focus on the perspectives that lawyers bring to the work.

“When I first started teaching in law school I noticed that there was a huge amount of suffering among law students, lawyers and clients. Some of the suffering, I thought, resulted from extreme adversarial perspectives and behavior,” Riskin said. “I thought that mediation was a way to reduce unnecessary adversarialism and suffering.”

Riskin began to write about and teach mediation in the early 1980s, and from that he became interested in mindsets lawyers use when addressing problems.

“A lot of my work has been designed to encourage or help law students, lawyers and mediators become more aware of what mindset they are using, and how that mindset affects the way they understand problems and the way they might try to deal with them,” Riskin said.

Eddie Mordujovich (JD 09), a business specialist at Koss Olinger Consulting LLC, worked as a research fellow in the Initiative of Mindfulness in Law and Dispute Resolution during his time at UF Law.

“What I learned with Len was how to not only use negotiation strategies and interpersonal conflict resolution strategies well, but to be in a frame of mind that is solid enough during the heat of negotiation to be able to actually put that knowledge into practice,” Mordujovich said.

He added that he has applied Riskin’s work in mindfulness and alternative dispute resolution to his former career in filmmaking and even during divorce negotiations with his former wife, which Mordujovich believes spurred both parties to reach a constructive outcome in a short time.

“This recognition by the ABA is particularly well-deserved given the light Riskin’s work sheds on bridging the gap between knowledge of effective negotiation techniques and the ability to put that knowledge into practice in the heat of the moment, when it is most needed,” Mordujovich said.

Riskin is the third recipient of the ABA Dispute Resolution Section’s award for Outstanding Scholarly Work since its creation in 2011. Harvard Law School professor Frank E.A. Sander and Georgetown University professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow received the award in years past.

“I feel honored because I very much admire the two previous recipients,” Riskin added. “I’m very lucky to have studied and worked with wise and thoughtful people from whom I learned a great deal. I especially appreciate working with my UF faculty colleagues and students.”