As the global leader in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), the AAA-ICDR® is committed to the growth of diversity and inclusion within the ADR field. The organization expects and demands impartial, fair treatment of all people with whom it comes in contact, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, or other characterization.
Specifically, the AAA-ICDR pledges to recruit, retain, and advance a diverse and inclusive Roster of Arbitrators and Mediators, Board of Directors, Council Members, and workforce and seeks to further diversity and inclusion in all aspects of its work. In recognition of the AAA’s ongoing diversity efforts, the AAA was an honoree of the New York Law Journal’s Diversity Initiative Project, conducted in 2015.
The AAA-ICDR’s diversity efforts can be tracked back to 1968 where we established the National Center for Dispute Settlement to help ease urban crises through arbitration and mediation. Then in 1979, the AAA co-sponsored the first National Women’s Arbitrator Development Program to establish a method for recruiting and training qualified women arbitrators.
Recruiting Diverse Arbitrators and Increasing Diverse Arbitrator Appointments
The AAA continues its multi-year undertaking to increase the gender and ethnic diversity of its Roster. Executives across every division and region of the organization actively recruit women and minority candidates who meet the criteria established for the AAA and ICDR panels.
The AAA Roster currently consists of 24% women and minorities, and this figure is increasing. To provide parties with lists of arbitrators that comprise at least 20% diverse panelists where party qualifications are met, the AAA has incorporated an algorithmic tool in its case-management system.
Diversity within the AAA
The AAA Higginbotham Fellows Program
The AAA created this highly visible, extremely successful one-year program in 2009 to provide training, networking, and mentorship for up-and-coming diverse ADR practitioners, who historically have not been included in meaningful participation in the field.
- Since inception, the Program has inducted 134 Fellows.
- Almost all Fellows who have applied have advanced to AAA Roster appointment, with a majority selected to serve on cases. One even has been elected to the AAA’s Council.
- Fellows represent 24 states and Washington D.C. in the United States; two U.S. territories—Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands; and two foreign countries—Ghana, and Kenya.
AAA Diversity Committee
The AAA Diversity Committee assists with coordinating diversity events, promoting diversity within the organization, and building relationships with external organizations.
Company-Wide Training Curriculum
To advance a greater level of comprehension of diversity and inclusion, the AAA launched an important 12-hour curriculum in 2017 to provide staff an opportunity to understand and examine implicit bias, learn how to resolve diversity-related conflicts, and understand the organizational benefits of promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace that fosters collaboration and innovation. Approximately 50% of employees voluntarily enrolled in the program, and in 2018 the training became required for all staff and executives. Since launching this initiative, AAA staff have completed more than 2,000 cumulative hours of training related to diversity and inclusion.
Support, Partnerships, and Coalitions With Minority Bar and Trade Groups
As part of its recruitment efforts, the AAA has built coalitions with national, minority, and local bar associations and law schools around the country, sponsoring and participating in events to provide training and create opportunities for diverse practitioners. Although this is not a comprehensive list, it reflects the types of activities that the AAA and its employees are engaged in:
- Joint arbitrator-recruitment and training initiatives that resulted in over 20 diverse individuals recruited to join the AAA Roster: (1) Event with the National Association of Minority & Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) and (2) Partnering with the National Bar Association (NBA)
- Partnership and outreach to several national and minority bar associations to identify and recruit diverse panelists: e.g., Aspiring Arbitrators Academy, where members of a minority bar association received arbitration training and individual counseling about opportunities to become an arbitrator
- Diversity-related events with local bar associations and law schools to provide training and create opportunities for diverse practitioners, including the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the New York City Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, Fordham Law School, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and other organizations around the country
- Co-sponsorship of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Convention in San Diego, attended by more than 1,900 corporate counsel, large-firm lawyers, solo practitioners, judges, non-profit counsel, and lawyers from governmental agencies
- Commercial Division-Sponsored Diversity Roundtable with arbitration practitioners and panelists to discuss how the AAA can further its commitment to diversity
- Mediation training of Higginbotham Fellows alumni to prepare them to apply to mediation panel by AAA Mediation.org in conjunction with National Bar Association 2017 Annual Convention, Toronto
Additional Diversity-Related Programs and Events
For each of the following selected diversity-related events, the AAA was substantively involved in co-sponsoring, organizing, hosting, providing speakers or funding, marketing, or otherwise supporting the program.
- La Raza Lawyers of California–Central California Chapter Judicial Reception
- ABA Litigation Sections Professional Success Summit for the Advancement of Racially and Ethnically Diverse Litigators
- Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York and Marino Legal Entertainment Law Event
- Women’s Construction Initiative Event—Good Foundations: Strategies for Self Advocacy
- LGBT Bar Association Annual Meeting
- National Bar Association
- Women-Owned Law and New York Women’s Bar Association Event
- CORE Training for NAMWOLF Members
- NAMWOLF Annual Meeting
- ABA Margaret Brent Awards for Women Lawyers of Distinction
- NYSBA Dispute Resolution Section Fall Meeting
- Minority Corporate Council Program
- ABA Women in Dispute Resolution Webinar
- Getting Started in ADR: A How-To for Women Attorneys
- NAMWOLF Annual Meeting
- NAPABA Convention
- Ismaili Community Arbitrator Training
- ACC Annual Meeting
- NAMWOLF Annual Meeting
- National Bar Association Annual Meeting
Putting Diversity Into Practice
Increasing Diversity Among Arbitrators - A Guideline to What the New Arbitrator and ADR Community Should Be Doing to Achieve This Goal