RSI has researched some of the most important questions in the court ADR field. Our research has helped inform courts and others in the field about online dispute resolution (ODR) for families with limited resources, the need for a tool to screen ADR participants for intimate partner violence, the potential for ADR to increase access to justice, and the efficacy of mediation. When the foreclosure crisis erupted, RSI was there to help guide courts about what was happening in the field and how to best respond.
Analyzing the Potential Promise and Pitfalls of Family ODR
Can family court ODR serve thinly resourced families, courts and communities and, if so, what would make it accessible, ethical and effective? RSI surveyed and consulted with dozens of experts to examine these questions. The resulting RSI report found that family court ODR does have this potential, and it recommends several steps to improve the accessibility, ethicality and effectiveness of family court ODR in the United States. For example, the report calls for nationwide support for the provision of ODR to those who are thinly resourced, as well as national standards for family ODR. It also recommends a comprehensive screening conversation with every parent to determine if any accommodations are needed to participate in ODR or if any safety concerns preclude ODR participation. However, RSI’s study did not find a clear path to making well-designed family court ODR available nationwide to parents who need it, because financial feasibility and sustainability remain elusive. This remains an unanswered question and the provision of such services potentially an impossible dream.
Connecting ADR and Access to Justice
In response to research showing that more than a million low-income Illinoisans faced civil legal problems in 2003, RSI was asked to examine the role that mediation could play in helping to resolve those problems. Dispute system design for courts could be described most simply as figuring out how to move a particular group of cases efficiently and fairly from court, through an ADR process, and back to court. A key aspect of access to justice is similarly described as providing the most effective legal information, advice or representation to poor and low-income disputants. But what if ADR could change the way that poor and low-income disputants access justice? RSI tackled this question in our study Accessing Justice through Mediation: Pathways for Poor and Low-Income Disputants. We surveyed stakeholders and researched the legal and ADR landscape in Illinois to determine the supports and barriers to using ADR to increase access to justice in the state. Then we designed a blueprint for a system whereby poor and low-income disputants could best achieve resolutions to their legal problems.
The Impact of Court Mediation on Time, Cost and Satisfaction
One of our most important contributions to the field of court mediation is Mediation Efficacy Studies, our summary of dozens of studies that explored whether court mediation programs really save time and money and provide participant satisfaction. This is an assumption that drives many court ADR programs, but is it true?
Assessing the Potential for an Online Screening Tool
The dynamics of intimate partner violence (IPV) pose a risk to the safety and self-determination of parties to a mediation. As a field, ADR practitioners have acknowledged that screening for IPV prior to mediation is critical, but do mediators have the resources and support to identify IPV and modify their sessions accordingly? To answer this question, RSI investigated the gap between "best practices" when it comes to IPV and the reality of what mediators are actually doing, and we explored the opportunity for technology to address these deficits. By analyzing the current landscape of screening protocols, surveying practitioners, and convening a group of experts in the fields of IPV survivor advocacy and mediation, we concluded that mediators, particularly ones who are new to the field or mediate only intermittently, would benefit from a tool that provides a guided screening interview to assist them in deciding whether a mediation should proceed, and if so, which adaptations to the mediation would be beneficial. To have the greatest impact, this tool would need to be available free of cost and require minimal training.
Exploring Foreclosure Mediation
Our research on foreclosure mediation at the outset of the foreclosure crisis provided the ADR field with reliable information for designing foreclosure dispute resolution processes across the country. These include a state-by-state examination of the goals and objectives of foreclosure dispute resolution programs, program models used around the United States and methods used for funding existing programs.