ITEM 126-1009-R0105    PROPOSAL

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution Certificate

 

I.          Description, Objectives and Need

 

A.         Description of the Program

 

The University of Montana Law School is a post-graduate, three-year professional program that results in the degree Juris Doctor (J.D.).  The School sets its own admissions standards and administers its own selection process.  The School has an enrollment of approximately 240 students, and admits approximately 80 students each year.  Students must obtain 90 credit hours to obtain a J.D. degree.

 

The mission of the Law School is to prepare its graduates to enter the practice of law, primarily in small law firms.  The focus of the curriculum is to produce graduates with sufficiently broad academic and practical training to accomplish this mission.  Consequently, the School has a highly required curriculum (60 of the 90 credit hours).  Its academic program is designed and intended almost exclusively for law students (graduate students may take certain Law School courses, but they receive credits only in their graduate program, not the Law School).

 

Law schools do not graduate students with the equivalent of a “major,” “minor,” or “specialty.”  The U of M Law School follows this pattern.  However, the School does offer approximately 40 elective courses, and by selecting among those courses a student may focus her legal education on certain areas of law.  In recent years, in an effort to address the demands of students, the practicing bar, and the public, law schools have started offering students the opportunity to earn a “certificate” in a given area of law if the student selects certain identified electives that focus on that topic.  The University of Montana Law School currently has one such “certificate” program in “Natural Resource and Environmental Law.”  In this application the School applies for a second “Certificate,” this one in “Alternative Dispute Resolution.”

 

Under this proposal, a Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) will be awarded to those Law School graduates who have satisfied the special focus requirements of the program.  To gain a Certificate the graduate must (1) accumulate 95 Law School credit hours (five more than the 90 hours required to obtain a J.D.), and (2) successfully complete the following:  (a) Pre-Trial Advocacy, Civil Procedure 1 & 2, Evidence, and Trial Practice, (b) the basic Alternative Dispute Resolution course, (c) six credit hours of additional qualifying ADR course work, (d) four credit hours of ADR Skill Activities, and (e) successfully complete the existing third-year writing requirement on a topic that is devoted to, or substantially incorporates, alternative dispute resolution.

 

There are no special admission requirements to obtain the Certificate; a student merely completes the proscribed course work.  The Certificate program does not require any additional courses or resources.

 

B.         Objectives and Need

 

The objective of the Certificate Program is to (1) offer students an identified focus program in alternative dispute resolution, and (2) recognize those students who complete the specific “focus” requirements of the Program.

 

Law School applicants, law students, the practicing bar, and the public are demanding integrated law school programs that focus on forms of dispute resolution other than traditional litigation.  This demand is based on the recognition that litigation should be the last resort of legal dispute resolution.  Indeed, only approximately five percent of all legal disputes are resolved through litigation.  Other law schools (nationally and regionally) offer certificate programs in alternative methods of dispute resolution.

 

The Law School needs the ADR Certificate Program to (1) make the Law School more competitive in attracting applicants vis-ŕ-vis other national and regional schools that offer ADR certificate programs, (2) address a growing national law school trend to develop and identify for students special “focus” programs to enable those students to more wisely choose among elective courses, (3) develop integrated programs focused on alternatives to traditional litigation (4) and address the demand of law school applicants, law students, the public, and the practicing bar for dispute resolution alternatives to traditional litigation.

 

II.         Course Requirements and Assessment

 

The Certificate will require no additional courses.  The Certificate Program allows students to select from existing courses that “focus” on alternative dispute resolution.  Assessment of students in the Program will be obtained course-by-course by the existing assessment techniques used in the specific courses taken to satisfy the Certificate requirements.

 

III.        Financial and Other Impact

 

A.         Financial Impact

 

The Certificate will require no additional faculty or resources.  The Law School has adequate courses, faculty, facilities and resources to offer and continue the Certificate Program.  Indeed, because qualifying students will be required to complete five additional credit hours beyond the current 90 credit hours necessary for graduation, the Certificate will have a positive revenue impact for the University.

 

B.         Other Impact

 

The Certificate Program will have no negative impact on the accreditation of the Law School, and because the size of the entering class is fixed, the program will have no impact on the number of Law School students enrolled.  Finally, because the Certificate is offered to only Law School students, the program will not impact other programs within the University System.

 

The Certificate program sought in this request will not conflict with a certificate in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution because the Law School Certificate Program: (1) applies only to Law School Students, and (2) it is applicable to all disputes that may come to the attention of lawyers, not merely natural resource/environmental disputes.  While some Law School students may qualify for the proposed Natural Resource/Environmental Conflict Resolution Certificate, the focus of that program is primarily directed at students enrolled at the U of M in Environmental Studies and Forestry.

 

IV.        The Development Process

 

The ADR Certificate proposal was developed over several years through a collaborative process that included law faculty, law students and lawyers.  Within the Law School, the proposal was reviewed and accepted by the Curriculum Committee, the faculty, and the Dean.