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Letter from CPR President & CEO, Allen Waxman

Less Conflict. More Purpose.

Dear CPR Community:

I write to you as we begin a new fiscal year at CPR. We are filled with excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead as we continue to promote less conflict and more purpose. We believe it is the pursuit of purpose that makes managing conflict effectively so important.

Purpose is often captured in the mission statements of the many organizations in our community. While the missions of each company and firm may differ by industry and focus, it is worth keeping in mind that the individuals within those entities have their own purpose in mind. Indeed, a recent survey by Thompson Reuters of in-house lawyers found that nearly 60% of them were focused on “self” as their driving purpose (as opposed to 29% who were focused on the Company’s purpose). Of the 60% focused on “self,” almost 30% expressed the desire to further develop themselves through their work, and a little over 20% conveyed their purpose as being to excel in their roles. Smaller percentages were focused on recognition (5%), work-life balance (5%), job satisfaction (4%), and reward and financial success (2%). Learning, achieving, feeling valued and satisfied are no doubt shared values and aspirations that animate so many of us when we show up at work (and elsewhere) every day. Recognizing this shared sense of purpose – amongst our colleagues and counterparties in a relationship or dispute – might actually help reorient us toward what is important and minimize the distractions and worse that prolonged disputes generate.

This brings us to our purpose at CPR. CPR was founded to help business get back to business, and not be distracted or disrupted by the waste of disputes. Its initial focus was on alternatives to litigation and promoting commercial mediation. Over the ensuing years, that focus expanded to other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and not only to generating innovations to support more efficient and effective resolution, but to deploying them as well. Now, 45 years later, we can take pride in how the use of arbitration and mediation to resolve disputes has itself become big business. Big Law boasts large arbitration practices; substantial, independent ADR firms have launched; and court systems in many places now require mediation. 

But even as we take pride expanding the forms of appropriate dispute resolution, we also must recognize that the number of disputes has not waned. Indeed, from courthouses to hearing rooms to boardrooms, the landscape seems more replete with disputes than ever before. In 2020, over 495,000 cases were brought in federal court while state court filings approached 33,000,000. And, according to the National Center for State Courts, the costs of managing the simplest of contract disputes exceeds $90,000.

And so, as we consider our purpose, we need to reorient our dispute intervention efforts resolutely upstream. It is not enough to resolve disputes more effectively; we actually need to be more intentional about how we prevent them in the first place. 

We are working together with our constituents on mechanisms to help us do so. For example:

  • We are completing work with our Healthcare and Life Sciences Committee on a manual to provide guidance for licensing transactions in the hope that the parties can choose to use the typical provisions in such a transaction to optimize the value of the business arrangement and avoid ambiguities or misalignments that might give rise to disputes down the road.
  • We are working with another task force on developing procedures for dispute review boards in the hope that these can be integrated into appropriate business arrangements to keep conflict from turning into a value-depleting disputes.
  • We are launching a skills-based training for neutrals so that they might be embedded as business enablers in, or be on stand-by for, parties’ contractual arrangements and help identify conflict early as well as develop business solutions.
  • We continue to promote our Dispute Prevention Pledge for Business Relationships and invite you to join the growing list of others who have proclaimed their openness to exploring ways to prevent disputes.

Of course, we also will continue to focus on more innovative ways to resolve those disputes that do arise. We are launching a pilot program called B2B Dispute Resolution Planning out of recognition that, when a dispute arises, many parties have not fully considered their options on how best to resolve their dispute, or they are relying upon a dispute resolution clause drafted years before the dispute arose. 

And, at CPR Dispute Resolution Services (DRS), we aim to put those dispute resolution processes into practice by deploying the initiatives and thought leadership of the CPR Institute, by utilizing the wonderful roster of 600+ neutrals on the Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, and by replying upon the responsive and experienced administrative staff of DRS. Indeed, our Board of Directors recently authorized the separation of DRS from the CPR Institute into its own subsidiary entity, CPR Dispute Resolution Services LLC. This change is intended to better optimize the services of each of the CPR Institute and DRS while maintaining the excellence in dispute management that CPR has come to be known for. 

These are exciting times for us at CPR as we remain focused on our purpose, and we hope to help you better realize yours.

With warmest regards,

Allen Waxman
President & CEO