What are the opportunities for mediators, arbitrators, and other ADR professionals using a short horizon of 5 or 10 years? The last couple of years have been quite an experience and here we are, poised on the edge of what I hope will be the start of the post-pandemic era.
When you cut into the present, the future leaks out ― William S. Burroughs
What I picture is an orange with a knife cutting into it. Remember the orange and the two sisters? If not, consult Google.
Let’s think about the present embodied in our orange.
Here are a few examples. During the first year of the pandemic, we saw job loss due to company closures or downsizing, and that was especially negative for women and visible minorities.
Along with the physical impacts of COVID-19, there have been a wide range of mental health concerns. The stress on families has shown up as a surge in the divorce rate.
The demand for housing has contributed to an extremely buoyant real estate market that seems to be still climbing. The construction industry has stayed strong throughout the pandemic. Now the economy seems to be booming, as signalled by supply chain issues that have erupted in many areas including vehicles, construction supplies and technology.
Specifically in the ADR field, I find the majority of work continues to be online rather than in-person. This fits well with the trend in the ADR industry to consider our environmental impact. One way to reduce consumption is not to travel unless the meeting will be impossible online.
Here’s what I see as the future leaking out of our orange as 2021 comes to a close.
To build an ADR business, here are five things that I would be thinking about and working on.
- Employment demand is growing
What is the demand for ADR professionals? In September 2021 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the employment of arbitrators, mediators and conciliators is projected to grow 10 percent from 2020 to 2030. That is the same as the average for all occupations.
Over the last decade in Canada, there has been a large increase in the number of mediation and adjudication jobs in government and non-profits such as colleges, universities and hospitals, institutions notably hard-hit by the pandemic.
I think that growth will continue into the next decade. Apply for the jobs or build your ADR business to be responsive to the institutions’ needs for developing those services and supplying the services on a contract basis.
- Stick with what’s hot– Workplaces and Construction
The workplace has been an area of growth for ADR services for at least the last 10 or 15 years. Recent news is about employment terminations due to vaccine requirements and the first few arbitration awards concerning the reasonableness of mandatory vaccine policies.
The need is not just for resolution of specific disputes. There is also need for conflict skills training, conflict management systems and other ways of handling the upstream side of workplace disputes. It is a great time to develop our skills and broaden our services.
A Construction Adjudication program started in Ontario as a “quick and dirty” way to keep construction projects moving. This trend is happening elsewhere in Canada and internationally.
In addition, the pre-pandemic trend toward mediation in the construction sector is needed more than ever to avoid delays on big projects.
- Court-connected mediation – Civil Justice and Family Mediation
a. Ontario needs to get serious about mandatory mediation in Civil Justice
As a result of the court shutdowns and the priority for criminal and urgent cases, the courts are facing huge backlogs. On October 29, 2021, Ontario announced $72 million to hire administrative staff to tackle the court backlog.
Mediators can help.
For the civil justice system, it is hard to imagine a better time to roll out mandatory mediation across Ontario as promised 20 years ago. There are lots of mediators across the province and we can work in all parts of the province, wherever there is sufficient internet.
Because Ontario is late with providing equal access to mandatory mediation, we have the advantage of being able to learn from the past and build better this time.
b. The need remains strong for Family Mediation
I already mentioned the increase in the number of families that made the decision to separate and have reached out to family lawyers and mediators.
I think there are many more families who are struggling with the fallout of the pandemic Mediators need to make it easy for those families to find them.
- International mediation and arbitration – Technology has shrunk the world
The increase in comfort with virtual meetings, means that ADR services in other parts of the world should be on our business development list. Before rushing forward, we need to do our groundwork. Intercultural competence is even more critical than it is when we are working within Canada.
- ADR for elders and estates is still the next big thing
The values of investments have increased dramatically in the last 20 years and Boomers have become a lot wealthier. We can’t take it with us.
An unprecedented amount of wealth is being transferred between generations. Families are struggling with the transition of farms, businesses, cottages, homes, and other assets. That’s difficult enough.
Then there are the health issues. Boomers are going to need increasing health services and lots of help navigating ways to meet their care needs.
That adds up to opportunities for ADR services focussed on estates and the families of elders.
That’s it. Those are five things for ADR professionals to work on next in post-pandemic ADR. It will take only 5 to 10 years to prove me right or wrong.
One thing that I am certain to be right about is that ADR professionals are people who share a passion for helping to navigate conflict. We will use the pandemic as the slingshot to launch us forward, and not let it be a boulder blocking our path.
When we follow our passion, we keep getting better at what we do in this business, and we can accomplish extraordinary things. Bring on 2030. We’re ready for you.
Struggling with conflict?
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5 days – 40 hours.
- the ADR Institute of Ontario
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