Teresa Frisbie is the director of Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s Dispute Resolution Program. She has been involved in alternative dispute resolution for nearly two decades. At Loyola, she coordinates all dispute resolution courses and activities, teaches mediation advocacy, and coaches the international mediation team. She has trained numerous law students, business professionals, lawyers, judges, realtors, physicians and nurses in mediation, mediation advocacy, negotiation, conflict management and/or international arbitration in the United States and internationally. She has been named a Top Ten Illinois Women ADR Neutral, a Leading Lawyer in Alternative Dispute Resolution in the categories of international, employment, and commercial litigation, and 2018 Mediator of the Year by the Association for Conflict Resolution.
How did you first become involved in alternative dispute resolution?
I was practicing as a litigator and learned about international commercial arbitration. I took the courses and exams and became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. The best thing about it may have been that it led me to mediation training. While I was able to apply my international arbitration knowledge not long after in a case, it was mediation and principled negotiation that were clearly useful to everything in my practice. I was drawn to mediation because our current litigation system is so expensive for clients and the focus is on procedural rules and discovery, while mediation creates an opportunity to sit down with people, talk about what really matters to them, and resolve a dispute quickly.
What do you like best about teaching at Loyola?
The people. We have wonderful students and colleagues. I never set out to have a career in teaching, but it turns out I love to teach and coach. I also love to learn and the best way to learn something is to teach it.
How can alternative dispute resolution practices complement the skill set of a litigator or transactional attorney?
You can have all the legal knowledge in the world and be a beautiful writer and orator, but at some point you are going to be across the table, either to settle the case or close the deal, with someone who views things differently and may even be angry. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your argument is if the decision maker on the other side is not even able to consider what you are trying to communicate. Having great negotiation skills (which includes excellent listening skills and comfort with difficult conversations) means you can regulate your own emotions, craft creative solutions based on party interests, and achieve client goals.
What advice do you have for students looking to become involved in alternative dispute resolution activities at the School of Law and in the Chicago legal community?
Take a skills course to learn the basics, try out for a competition team, join the student ADR Society, or learn to help real people in mediation through a practicum course. Chicago has a wonderful ADR community, including restorative justice programs that use processes like peace circles. You can also participate in community-building circles in the law school.
Outside of traditional lawyering skills, what specific skills do you recommend that law students develop to prepare them for a legal career?
There is pretty wide consensus that the non-traditional skills matter the most for a successful and happy career. Law students need people skills, time management skills, conflict resolution skills, and self-regulation skills. The good news is that these things can be learned.
You have studied mindfulness in the legal profession. How is the profession’s approach to these topics evolving?
Law careers are demanding and our statistics on anxiety, depression and substance abuse are dismal. Law firms and bar associations are addressing this by looking at the emerging science and getting serious about teaching lawyers to take care of their brains through mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga. We already have a student mindfulness group here in the law school and the Chicago Bar Association has a Mindfulness Committee that is open to students.
What mindfulness techniques do you practice in your everyday life?
I meditate, often with apps like Calm, Headspace and 10% Happier. I do a modified form of yoga loosely based on The Happy Body workout. There are lots of ways to be mindful. Loyola recently hosted the Mindfulness in Law Society’s national conference and lawyers from across the country shared their practices—including walking meditation, listening to music, and being in nature, among others. One room was full of attendees practicing qigong. Mindfulness can also be noticing something new in the familiar. Remember: Don’t judge your mindfulness practice!