Ontario Bar Association announces online neutral diversity survey

Association forms neutral diversity committee with members of ADR, civil litigation executives

Ontario Bar Association announces online neutral diversity survey
Organizations worldwide have been working toward better neutral diversity

On Apr. 15, the Ontario Bar Association urged its members engaged in litigation, mediation and arbitration to share their thoughts and experiences relating to diversity among alternative dispute resolution professionals in the province via its online neutral diversity survey.

The survey, which takes around two to 10 minutes to finish, is a part of the association’s goal to join international efforts to learn more about and to tackle the issue of mediators and arbitrators not reflecting the diversity of the populations that they serve. The association noted that survey responses can be used anonymously in a report about mediator diversity.

The association’s newly established neutral diversity committee, a joint committee composed of members of the ADR and civil litigation executives, created the survey and will work to address neutral diversity in the province.

Organizations around the world have been striving toward better neutral diversity. International neutral providers like JAMS and the CPR International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution have made recommendations for improving the diversity of mediators and arbitrators, while almost 5000 individuals and organizations around the world signed a pledge to increase the use of women arbitrators.

The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in the U.K. found that those working in commercial mediation are composed of 33.6 per cent women and 66.4 per cent men and that the proportion of commercial mediators from ethnic groups except White ethnic groups is lower than that in the general population and in the legal profession and other comparable professions.

The centre recommended that admission to panels supplying mediators be based on transparent procedures primarily focused on mediator experience and ability and that mediator panels offer clients lists of potential mediators that include diverse candidates. It also urged lawyers and other mediation users to demand diverse lists from mediation providers, to reject-non diverse lists, to remain open to using new mediators and to receive training for how to deal with unconscious bias.

In 2018, the American Bar Association determined that diversity within dispute resolution significantly falls behind diversity within the broader legal profession; that the diversity of neutrals chosen for popular mediator/arbitrator panels significantly falls behind diverse representation with respect to gender, race and ethnicity within the broader legal profession; and that women and members of racial and ethnic groups included in such panels served as neutrals at levels below their representation within the profession.

The same year, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution calling on dispute resolution providers to expand their rosters with diverse neutrals and calling on users of domestic and international legal and neutral services to choose and use diverse neutrals.

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