William W. Dowries, Jr. and Stephen D. Kelson, J.
Many well-seasoned practitioners can recall a time when trials were the norm, and anything more than direct negotiations between parties and counsel was considered taboo or supposedly showed weakness. The practice of law has significantly changed over the past twenty years, and well-informed counsel and clients recognize the benefit of alternative methods to obtain outcomes to disputes. For twenty-five years Utah Dispute Resolution (UDR) has assisted in providing access to justice to thousands of Utah's low and moderate income residents through mediation.
For the very few, if any, in the Utah legal community who do not understand the term, mediation is a voluntary, collaborative approach to dispute resolution using the assistance of an impartial, third party. Mediators for UDR help people in conflict to understand and express their needs and interests. The process offers an opportunity for the parties to voice their viewpoints and hear other viewpoints in a safe, supportive environment that promotes understanding. It is an alternative to litigation, avoidance, destructive confrontation, or violence. In mediation, the disputing parties retain control over the outcome, while the mediator manages the process and helps parties overcome barriers that often stalemate the discussion. Mediation is designed to preserve interests and maintain relationships where possible. With the purpose and goals of mediation, UDR has assisted thousands of Utah's citizens retain control of the outcome of their disputes and resolve their conflicts. The courts have also benefitted through resolution of these cases, which would otherwise fill the courts' dockets.
From a Humble Beginning: The concept of UDR began in 1988 when Dr. Marlene W. Lehtinen, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah, submitted a grant request, on behalf of the Utah State Bar, to the federally funded State Justice Institute in Alexandria, Virginia. The purpose of the proposal was to create and operate a neighborhood dispute resolution program that could provide mediation services to members of the community free of charge. Although such programs were in existence in other states, no such program existed in Utah at that time.
After several revisions and submission of the proposal,...