Jim Groton is a retired partner of the law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan LLP, where he formerly led the Construction Practice Group and the Dispute Prevention and Resolution practice of that firm.
As a practicing lawyer during Atlanta’s building boom in the 1960s he began to specialize in construction matters, transitioning from trial lawyer to trouble shooter, to behind-the-scenes counselor, to problem solver, to pioneer in the application of techniques for preventing, controlling, de-escalating, and achieving the earliest possible resolution of disputes. He has had a remarkable record of success in helping to “keep the peace” on numerous construction projects and in other business relationships and transactions.
Throughout his career Jim has embraced and used every conceivable ADR process. He has been a commercial and construction arbitrator since 1970 and has received awards for his service as an arbitrator. He has taught classes in mediation, and has been recognized for his pioneering in mediation. He was an early advocate of dispute prevention processes such as partnering and dispute review boards on construction projects. Over time his experience has convinced him that pre-dispute processes that prevent and de-escalate disputes (such as realistic allocation of risks, partnering, incentives to encourage cooperation, step negotiations and standing neutrals), are the most cost-effective, relationship saving,and time saving of all ADR processes.
In retirement Jim has divided his time between dispute resolution work as an arbitrator, dispute review board member and standing neutral, and dispute prevention research, writing, training, advocacy, and consultation in the emerging field of proactively anticipating, preventing, controlling and managing problems that might otherwise escalate into disputes.
He devotes a substantial amount of pro bono time to educating business organizations, business leaders and corporate counsel in the principles and methods of proactive prevention of disputes. He has sponsored research into documenting the relative transaction costs of various methods of addressing disputes to provide empirical data for business executives making decisions about selecting the most appropriate methods for dealing with potential disputes. He is active in the work of the Construction Industry Institute, the National Academy of Construction, the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR), American Arbitration Association (AAA), and the European Proactive ThinkTank (PATT).
Jim is a former President of the American College of Construction Lawyers, an officer of the National Academy of Construction, and he has received many awards and honors for his construction and dispute resolution work. Since his “retirement” after 47 years of practicing law he has remained as active as ever, enjoying the luxury of freedom to pursue a variety of interests that are an extension of his career-long passion of preventing, mitigating, and finding efficient ways of addressing problems and potential disputes.
His most important current professional activity is his support of the Global Pound Conference Series, which is engaged in an examination of what’s good (and what’s not so good) about current ADR processes, and what should be the dispute resolution processes of the future. He advocates the greater use of pre-dispute and pre-escalation processes that prevent disputes as an important part of the improvement of ADR for the future.
His office is in Atlanta and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-853-8071
CHART OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION STAGES AND STEPS
Today, because of the flexibility, adaptability and versatility of ADR, Users of dispute resolution processes have available to them a wide variety of techniques that can be used to prevent, control and resolve disputes. New techniques are constantly being developed to deal with the wide variety of potential disputes that can occur in any kind of relationship, and at any stage in the development or escalation of a problem or dispute.
It has become increasingly common for parties about to enter into a relationship to combine a series of dispute prevention, control and resolution processes into a ‘system’ or series of ‘steps’ that are designed to deal with different kinds of problems or disputes that might occur, at successive stages in the development and escalation of a dispute. These processes can be grouped for convenience into four broad categories or stages:
The Prevention and Cooperation Stage, where parties can use prevention and cooperation techniques, tailored to encourage alignment of interests, improve cooperation, prevent or minimise the adverse impact of problems, and curb adversarial attitudes.
The Dispute De-Escalation, Control and ‘Real Time’ Resolution Stage, where parties can use techniques that are designed to deal promptly and realistically with problems, differences of opinion or disagreements at the time they arise, to de-escalate tensions, resolve problems, or achieve instant resolution of disputes.
The Facilitated Resolution Stage, where parties, assisted and guided by mediators and other dispute resolution professionals, can use any of a wide variety of techniques, or combinations of techniques, to achieve a mutually-acceptable resolution of a dispute.
The Binding Resolution Stage, where, after all other efforts at resolution have failed, parties can have a ‘back stop’ adjudication process in which the dispute will be finally resolved by a neutral third party — either in a privately-agreed process such as arbitration, or, by default, in a court of law.
These stages are graphically illustrated in the attached Chart of Dispute Resolution Stages and Steps, which lists various techniques in the order in which they would normally be employed in the life of a dispute, and demonstrates, in dramatic ‘stair step’ fashion, escalating degrees of hostility, cost, and time for achieving resolution, from stage to stage, as an unresolved dispute progresses.
Preventing and Resolving Construction Disputes, CPR 1991
Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Task Force (DART) 1991
Dispute Prevention and Resolution Research Team of the Construction Industry Institute, 1993
CPR Dispute Prevention Initiative and Prevention Practice Materials, 2010
Updated for the Global Pound Conference 2016, by James P. Groton
GLOBAL POUND CONFERENCE: THE FUTURE OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION
The Global Pound Conference is a worldwide ADR study effort, organized 40 years after the original 1976 Pound conference (named in honor of the great American jurist Roscoe Pound) which launched the modern ADR movement. Its declared purposes are to engage all stakeholders in the dispute resolution world (Parties/Users; Advisors/Lawyers; Providers of Adjudicative Services; Providers of Non-Adjudicative Services; and Influencers/Researches/Educators), to examine how well (or poorly) current dispute resolution processes are working, and to explore what the future of dispute resolution should be. [. . . Read More]