Theory to Practice (and the Lovely Results)

This morning our Marquette Foreclosure Mediation Program was singled out as a primary reason that the Mayor of Milwaukee won a public policy award for “Innovative Response to Economic Downturn” from the Public Policy Forum, and last week the MFMP won “Lawyer of the Year” from the Milwaukee Bar Association. Not a bad week!

I have to got to say that the public response to our program — and more importantly, the response of the people we have helped in the past year to stay in their homes — has been more than gratifying. 

When I was asked a few years ago to serve on a committee under the Mayor’s Milwaukee Foreclosure Partnership Initiative to help design a mediation program with the court, I was initially worried that (a) the committee would meet for years and accomplish little and (b) that it would take precious time away from writing. While the latter fear has been realized (I know where my sabbatical went!), the first fear was not realized. The committee moved extraordinarily quickly and, with the support of the courts, city, state, legal aid, housing counselors, bank counsel, and other key local actors, the Mediation Program started at the end of last summer. We now have a fabulous chief mediator (Debra Tuttle) and program administrator (Amy Koltz, one of my former students!), all overseen by Natalie Fleury, our dispute resolution program coordinator.

It is amazing, at the end of the day, to realize that our academic training and theories for dispute system design can really be put to work for good. And, as someone who has happily stayed esconced in the ivory tower of academia for a long time, it is useful to be reminded that theories are only as good as the actual practice, which, in this case, has been wildly successful. As for the concern on writing, I am looking forward to data crunching for the next several years and writing about everything from dispute systems design to procedural justice to mediator neutrality — all informed by the real world experiences of the people we help every day. I couldn’t be prouder!

Cross posted at Indisputably.

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