Centers

Center for Dispute Resolution

Nationally recognized as one of the nation's finest training grounds in dispute resolution, the Center for Dispute Resolution has earned many accolades since its founding in 1983 on the campus of Willamette University College of Law. The Center for Dispute Resolution was the first of its kind in the western United States and is the model against which similar endeavors are now measured. Willamette's Center for Dispute Resolution serves a variety of purposes and a variety of constituencies.

To Willamette students, the Center for Dispute Resolution is a teaching enterprise a place to learn the theory and practice of negotiation, mediation, arbitration and other appropriate, alternative methods of resolving disputes. Through the Center, a specialized certificate in dispute resolution can be earned by a select group of Willamette students completing the J.D. program. (This program is also open on a limited basis to M.B.A. students in the Atkinson Graduate School of Management and to members of the community.) The Center for Dispute Resolution embodies Willamette's tradition of ensuring that each law graduate will be truly prepared to enter the legal profession as an effective problem-solver.

To faculty members at Willamette University College of Law and at other law schools the Center for Dispute Resolution is a vehicle for the production and dissemination of research on conflict theory and problem solving. The Center has hosted distinguished scholars like Robert Mnookin, Neil Vidmar, Len Riskin and Daisy Hurst Floyd. The work of the Center is fertile ground for scholarly exploration. In the spring of 2000, Professor Richard Birke, director of the Center for Dispute Resolution, and Craig Fox, of Harvard Negotiation Law Review, were awarded the top prize offered by the Institute for Dispute Resolution of the Center for Public Resources for their article on psychological principles in negotiating civil settlements.

The Center for Dispute Resolution served as a trainer or neutral facilitator in a variety of projects with government entities, selected agencies and other organizations. Thus, to members of the local community, the State of Oregon and the nation, the Center for Dispute Resolution is not only a public forum for dialogue about real-world conflicts, it is also a provider of dispute resolution resources. The Center has provided training in student peer mediation for the local Salem-Keizer School District, worked with a local Marion County agency to help educate those involved in resolving family disputes, and assisted hundreds of attorneys in the Oregon Department of Justice in a special project. Perhaps its most celebrated achievement was the successful resolution of a decades old land dispute involving 35,000 acres of watershed and old growth forest in the Willamette Valley. The historic Opal Creek document resolving this emotional and heated dispute, culminated countless hours of testimony, research and discussion, eventually became the basis for new environmental legislation passed by the United States Congress in 1996.

The Center sponsors a simulation bank of role-playing exercises for teachers and trainers in the areas of negotiation, arbitration, mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. For a small fee, these academics and private trainers have access to a variety of simulations in various areas of the law that can be used to enhance the alternative dispute resolution skills of students and practicing professionals.

The Center maintains a Web site on Recent Developments in Dispute Resolution, updating academics and practitioners weekly on the latest cases in mediation, arbitration and other dispute resolution topics.

Finally, the Center serves as a provider of continuing legal educational programs in the area of dispute resolution. The programs are responsive to trends in the law and teach everything from negotiation strategy to advocacy in mediation to ethics.

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Professor Richard Birke
Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution

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