March 2014 Bar Bulletin
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March 2014 Bar Bulletin

Designing Women Behind Seamless Conference

By Kathleen Wareham


For more than 20 years, the Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference organizers have developed an outstanding event to promote the use of ADR and offer compelling, diverse presentations and practical skills. Over those years, three women have supported the conference and worked seamlessly together as pivotal organizers: Kathy Kline, Julia Gold and Nancy Highness.

Kline has been the conference coordinator since 1994, first while serving as the continuing legal education director for the King County Bar Association, and since 1998 as the conferences and continuing education director at the University of Washington School of Law.

In 1995, Gold had just joined the faculty at the University of Washington School of Law, a co-sponsor of the conference. A full-time faculty member, Gold continues to teach negotiation and directs the Mediation Clinic and Street Law Clinic.

Highness, an employment and workplace mediator, attended the conference for the first time in 1995 and soon afterward joined the planning committee. In 1998, Highness and Gold began co-chairing the committee, with Alan Kirtley, Michael Gillie, Michael McCormick, Donna Lurie, Robin Low, Alice Shorett, Dave Tarshes, Dan Tolfree, Dick Keefe, John Hough, Phil Cutler, Larry Mills and the author serving as co-chairs at various times. The constant in the conference, and a key to its success over all these years, has been the leadership team: Kline, Gold and Highness - a regal-sounding trio, indeed.

As women working together for two decades in support of alternative dispute resolution, Kline, Gold and Highness have seen changes for women in dispute resolution practice, particularly with women taking on increasingly larger roles. Highness notes that more women are pursuing mediation and arbitration as panel members and as solo practitioners, and "helping to spread the word and the work of dispute resolution into everyday living."

She points out that "there's been a network television program about mediation and the mediator was a woman! It is no longer a field where only men are considered as qualified and competent providers."

Gold has seen a marked increase in the number of women in law school and observes, "Our women students are often the leaders of student organizations, excelling at all levels, from moot court and mediation competitions to law journals."

Kline notes an increase in the number of women authoring publications about conflict resolution and gaining national prominence as faculty, speakers, writers and practitioners. Over the years, she says, there has been regular participation by women presenters at the conference "with women making up about half the presenters."

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