Dispute Resolution Program Celebrates 15 Years, Launches New WebsiteOn January 9, 2012, Common Law celebrated the 15th Anniversary of the Dispute Resolution Program, simultaneously launching a new open access teaching website. The event was coupled with this year’s annual Thomas Feeney Memorial Lecture.
Dean Bruce Feldthusen introduced the event, commenting on how innovative the Dispute Resolution Program – now the Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility Program – has been since its establishment. “This program is an industry leader, an education leader and a law school leader. It began before its time and remains before its time. We’re extremely proud of this program and the many people who participate in it, in particular Professor Ellen Zweibel who has been the driving force for every minute of its 15 years.”
Prof. Zweibel spoke about the history of the program, describing it as a work of collaboration from the very beginning. It began as a joint effort between the English and French Common law Programs to teach first-year students how to work with clients to resolve disputes through non-judicial mechanisms. This demanded collaboration with first-year professors to free up a week for a rudimentary one-week course. Later, the course was expanded into the three-week January Term session that all first-year Common Law students now experience.
The latest collaboration has been with the University of Ottawa’s Centre for e-Learning and has resulted in a new interactive and open access website, which provides students with more opportunities to practice their skillsets. The website focuses on interviewing, communication skills, ethics, negotiation, arbitration and mediation, complementing the program’s classroom experience with a dynamic and interactive online component.
Moreover, the website highlights dispute resolution competencies aimed at medical professionals. These modules, designed initially by Prof. Zweibel and Professor John Manwaring for law students, have been adapted to help teach medical students, residents and professionals how to resolve conflicts in a productive way.
With the launch of the new website, anyone can now access the law material and the medical material and create their own courses. “We have created a way that anyone anywhere who wants to use the interactive materials that we have created for our students can access them for free and then use them as they want,” says Prof. Zweibel.
Click here to visit the new Dispute Resolution and Professionalism website.
Appropriately, the Dispute Resolution celebration was coupled with the Annual Thomas Feeney Memorial Lecture, which featured a prominent practitioner of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), Douglas Melville, Ombudsman and CEO of Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI). Mr. Melville’s speech was entitled “Serving the Public Interest: Resolving Banking Services and Investments Complaints,” and dealt with how the OBSI faces the challenges of resolving disputes without the procedural constraints of a formal judicial process.
“I’m very passionate about alternative dispute resolution because it’s still in progress and it’s constantly evolving,” said Mr. Melville. “It uses the skills you pick up in law school and the ones you’ll pick up outside of law school, before, during and after. ADR provides a different way of looking at things, and isn’t that what we all came to law school for? I applaud this law school for being at the forefront of training for Canadian lawyers on this. I think lawyers are starting to embrace it more than they ever have before, and I think it’s going to make all of us better practitioners.”