It’s brilliant: Family Dispute Resolution in the UK

I just attended the annual Dispute Resolution conference sponsored by Britain’s legal family DR organization, Resolution.

Anne Barlow of the University of Exeter who delivered a passionate keynote address on her groundbreaking research comparing the key dispute resolution options available to separating couples–mediation, solicitor negotiation and collaborative law. (At the time the research commenced three years ago, family arbitration was not permitted in the UK. This has recently changed— more on that later.) The report she co-authored with Rosemary Hunter, Janet Smithson and Jan Ewing, Mapping Paths to Family Justice, is a must-read for anyone delivering family law dispute resolution in any jurisdiction.

Dr. Miriam Silver, a noted UK psychologist who specializes in speaking and writing about the impact of conflict on children. Her talk was riveting and informative.

Jamies Pirrie, a leading British family lawyer, mediator, arbitrator and progressive thinker whop spoke about how we can do better work for more families and, particularly, children affected by separation and divorce.

2. The apparent dedication, passion and commitment of the organization’s leaders. You can identify the health of an organization by the “feel” of its conference. This conference drew together about 200 leading family law practitioners from across the UK. The extensive seminars on a wide range of topics were not only well attended but were highly interactive. The level of engagement and positive warmth throughout was remarkable.

3. The genuine curiosity and commitment to excellence of the people attending. Few if any attending this event were there to self-promote. Rather, the atmosphere was one of open learning, sharing, and enthusiasm for new ideas. This is a group that truly embraces the concept of best practices.

4. The structure of the event. There was an informal reception and dinner the evening before, and a full day of highly engaging panels and workshops. Everyone left at 4:30 when the day wrapped up, with a high degree of satisfaction with what they had contributed and learned.

The twitter verse using the hashtag #DRconf2014 was buzzing for the entire day and since. No wonder— this was a rare experience and I am so honoured to have been part of it.