Dispute resolution program garners national attention
By JARED MISNER (3JM)
Robin Davis (JD 88) thrives on helping others.
Now serving as the director of the University of Florida Levin College of Law’s Institute for Dispute Resolution, Davis’ history of doing just that includes working as a middle school English and social studies teacher, a social worker, and alternative dispute resolution director of Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit.
The UF Law Dispute Resolution Program has received a boost from U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 rankings, which placed UF Law seventh in the field of dispute
resolution among public universities and 19th overall.
UF’s reputation in the field of dispute resolution, faculty members said, is due in large part to the institute’s programs, including arbitration training for foreclosure
mediation and collaborative law training.
Partly supported by a $100,000 donation from Florida-based Upchurch Watson White and Max Mediation Group, UF’s Institute for Dispute Resolution was the first of its kind established at a Florida law school following a trailblazing state law granting judges the broad authority to mandate mediation in civil cases.
While dispute resolution might still be classified as a “specialty area,” Davis is
quick to highlight its importance. “When there’s a conflict, and you let it go,
it can actually become worse. It can become explosive,” Davis said. Mediation
“is a healthy way to resolve conflict because you encourage the parties to engage
in a dialogue.”
Leonard Riskin, a Chesterfield Smith professor of law, expanded on the growing
importance of mediation he’s seen in recent years.
“Mediation is now used in virtually every case you can imagine,” he said.
Riskin also leads UF’s Initiative of Mindfulness in Law and Dispute Resolution where he works to improve the resolution abilities of law students and professionals.
The program’s other faculty include Associate Professor and IDR Associate Director
Jonathan Cohen; Professor and Director Emeritus Don Peters; Lecturer and Affiliate Director Stephen Powell; and Lecturer and Affiliate Director and Clinical Professor Iris Burke.
The real benefit of mediation lies in creating a situation where both parties gain from the transaction. “In mediation, we like to say there can be a win-win situation,” Davis said, “working together is in the interest of both parties.”
Cohen, the program’s associate director, added an important distinction between
dispute resolution and other areas of law.
“We try to train lawyers to be effective problem solvers and not just effective litigators,” he said.
Taking that idea of working together, faculty members in UF’s dispute resolution
program point to a new organization they hope will bring the entire UF community
The Conflict Resolution Initiative, started in part by the IDR student organization Gators for Alternative Dispute Resolution along with the UF Student Affairs Office, will help law students mediate actual disputes on the UF campus as they train to become certified mediators by the Florida Supreme Court.
The 27 law students trained to become part of the first class of the organization’s Mediation Training Program in mid-March. They now must complete observation hours and submit applications before becoming Florida Supreme Court Certified County Court mediators.
With a waiting list already in place for the organization’s help, Davis said the Conflict Resolution Initiative could help solidify the University of Florida’s prominence as a national leader in dispute resolution.
“We hope the CRI can help change the landscape of the UF community to a more
peaceable community,” Davis said. “Conflict resolution helps educate people to be
more responsible citizens.”