The Gould School of Law received a $5 million donation from Judith Hollinger to start an alternative dispute resolution program in arbitration and mediation.
Hollinger is a retired Los Angeles Superior Court and Beverly Hills Municipal Court judge. She attended USC for both her undergraduate studies and law school. The new program will be known as the Judge Judith O. Hollinger Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.
Robert Rasmussen, dean of Gould, has worked with Hollinger to help develop the new program in alternative dispute resolution.
“We were already in the midst of expanding in that area,” Rasmussen said. “And I think that really caught her fancy — just the notion that she could make a really tremendous gift to help us build out the best program of its kind in the country.”
In 2007, USC launched its cutting-edge mediation clinic, which teaches and allows students to practice arbitration and mediation skills. Both the Mediation Clinic and Advanced Mediation Clinic will be incorporated into the ADR program.
Both the clinics and the new program focus on alternative dispute resolution, which emphasizes the use of alternative tactics within the legal system to settle conflicts and avoid having to go to trial.
“We want to be a place that trains students at the highest level and that also contributes to our academic understanding of alternative dispute resolution and its effect on our legal system,” Rasmussen said.
Professor Lisa Klerman, director of the two mediation clinics, will oversee the new program. She stressed the importance of equipping law students with knowledge of alternative dispute resolution.
“It’s an increasingly important area of the law so I think that these skills are incredibly valuable, if not essential, for today’s graduates to master, given how important arbitration and mediation are becoming in the world right now,” she said.
A significant portion of legal decisions occur outside of the courtroom, without ever having to go to trial, and primarily being settled through the alternative forms of dispute resolution that will be taught through the new program.
“Something like only 1.5 percent of cases actually make it to trial and the rest have to rely on other forms of dispute resolution to be resolved,” Klerman said.
Few law schools throughout the country currently have programs dedicated to alternative dispute resolution. The study of alternative dispute resolution must take a different form than traditional aspects of legal studies, given its complex and personalized nature.
“The challenging thing about ADR is that they don’t offer opinions, like courts do. Instead, you really have to be in there, out in the world, knowing the practice, to understand what’s going on and how to be effective,” Rasmussen said.
To address this challenge, the program will feature many new classes beginning next fall, including International Arbitration, Arbitration Advocacy and Clause Drafting. Classes will be taught by both current professors and by adjunct faculty members from throughout Los Angeles. Many adjunct faculty members will be practicing Gould School of Law alumni.
“We’re tapping into some of the very best ADR professionals in the greater Los Angeles area to teach these classes, and that part is very exciting,” Klerman said.
The Gould School of Law will be hosting an event this spring to officially announce the new ADR program.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Judge Hollinger for this visionary gift. This will have an impact on current students and on students for decades to come,” Rasmussen said.