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Law School Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution to Host Symposium on Federal Arbitration Act

November 11th, 2015

Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution Symposium

The School of Law’s Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution will host a symposium, “Beyond the Federal Arbitration Act: Arbitration Procedure, Practice, and Policy in Historical Perspective” on November 13. The symposium will feature two panels on the history of arbitration in America — the first focusing on arbitration in Elizabethan England and early America, the second concerning the history of arbitration after the Federal Arbitration Act and up to the present. The symposium culminates with a keynote address delivered by Professor James Oldham, the St. Thomas More Professor of Law and Legal History at Georgetown University Law Center.

Professor Oldham’s preeminent scholarship in legal history will inform his address, “The Historically Shifting Sands of Reasons to Arbitrate.” Oldham is currently the Neutral Discipline Arbitrator for the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association. He also serves as a salary arbitrator for Major League Baseball and as a member of an appeals panel for the National Football League and the NFL Players Association.

According to Professor Carli Conklin, who will present on arbitration in early America at the symposium, the historical perspective offered at the symposium “provides new insights into our modern day arbitration procedures that we are not always able to cover in our doctrinal classes. These insights matter as the question, ‘What is arbitration?’ increasingly finds its way into our public discourse.”

Fortuitously, a recent multi-part cover story in The New York Times decried the perils of arbitration, suggesting that ubiquitous arbitration clauses have stacked the deck of justice. In advancing the current conversation, the symposium aims to explore arbitration by uncovering its history before suggesting a way forward.

The symposium will also have an interdisciplinary focus. “Our presenters have backgrounds in law and history,” Conklin says, “and they draw on those backgrounds to tell more complete — and very compelling — stories about arbitration across American history. From early Modern English arbitration to Quaker arbitration to diverse state-level systems of arbitration to the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 — the United States has a very rich and diverse history of arbitration practice and procedure.”

Not only will Mizzou Law students benefit from a historical perspective often excluded from legal pedagogy, but also members of the Missouri legal community at large will advance their knowledge of arbitration, as the event has been approved for 4.2 hours of continuing legal education credit by The Missouri Bar.

“The symposium has a very strong practical bent,” Conklin says, “with many of our presenters being active arbitrators themselves. I am always eager to find ways to help students combine theory and scholarship with practice and there is no better example of that combination than our keynote speaker, James Oldham, who not only is a fantastic legal historian, but also a nationally respected arbitrator and past president of the National Academy of Arbitrators.”