ADR Tip of the Month - January 2015

January 2015 ADR Tip of the Month 

These practice tips are written by the 3 presenters at the MSBA ADR Section's January 13, 2015 ADR CLE, "Improve your ADR and Law Practices by Increasing your Cultural Awareness."  The presenters discussed how lawyers and ADR neutrals can more effectively represent and interact with clients, co-workers, and mediation participants who come from diverse cultural backgrounds by becoming more culturally aware.  

Speaker Nhia Vue X. Chu:

  • Depending on the issues involved, when doing mediations with Hmong parties, it may be helpful to ask in advance if the parties want to have clan leaders present to confer with during the mediation.  
  • During a mediation with Hmong parties, there may be 3 generations of family members present, including children, to support the parties in conflict. 

Speaker Hamse Warfa: 

  • Somali “xeer” or customary law is a set of norms that govern all aspects of Somali lives from marriages and inheritances to settling individual disputes and resolving major conflicts
    • It's important to exhaust the 'xeer' system before moving into the more U.S.-based alternative mediation process. This will eliminate the potential that one of the parties will ask to invoke the xeer system in the middle of the formal mediation process.
    • Knowing the real stakeholders in family dispute resolutions is critical.
    • The gender and clan perspective is essential in dispute resolution given that Somalis are a 'conflict generated' diaspora. 

Speaker Referee JaPaul J. Harris:

  • African-Americans often distrust our legal system – police, attorneys and judges -- even when African-Americans are part of that system.  This distrust requires transparency which acknowledges that distrust honestly and openly.  It also requires a vigilant personal awareness of our own biases and prejudices.