Maryland Carey Law Alumni Lead Maryland ADR Innovations
(from left to right:) Mala Malhotra-Ortiz ’04, Scottie Reid ’82, Jonathan Rosenthal ’91, C-DRUM Managing Director Toby Treem Guerin ’02, Rachel Wohl ’88, & Maureen Denihan ’04
What do the leaders of the Maryland Judiciary’s alternative dispute resolution programs have in common? They are all graduates of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law:
Rachel Wohl ’88 recently retired executive director of the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO);
Mala Malhotra-Ortiz ’04, director of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ADR Division;
Scottie Reid ’82, deputy director of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ADR Division;
Jonathan Rosenthal ’91, executive director of the District Court of Maryland ADR Office;
and Maureen Denihan ’04, deputy director of the District Court of Maryland ADR Office
They all sat down to discuss their work, their time at Maryland Carey Law, their vision for ADR in Maryland, and their ideas concerning the important role that the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law (C-DRUM) can play in the ADR community.
All of these Maryland ADR leaders take great pride in overseeing programs that create opportunities for people to work through conflicts and develop creative solutions. They view dispute resolution as a way for people to access a range of solutions. This can foster public trust and confidence in the judiciary. According to Wohl, “The most gratifying part of my job was knowing that the Maryland Judiciary, through MACRO, collaborated to foster growth and innovation in the field. MACRO grants programs were used as catalysts to support services such as community mediation, community conferencing, and District Court and Maryland Court of Special Appeals mediation programs, which are free and accessible to the public.”
As ADR has grown in the state, the ADR course offerings have expanded at Maryland Carey Law. While in law school, these ADR leaders took classes such as counseling and negotiation, the mediation clinic, environmental law, and mediation theory and practice. Denihan stated that these ADR courses “opened [her] eyes to the alternative ways to look at conflict and provided a greater understanding of the legal system and the role of dispute resolution.” For most, the courses resonated with their general sense of effective ways to explore conflict and empower individuals.
Moving forward, the leaders foresee both challenges and opportunities for the field of dispute resolution. Through their work and that of many other trailblazers in dispute resolution, what first began as an alternative to resolving disputes is becoming more integrated with the legal process. This acceptance of dispute resolution—mediation specifically—into the fabric of the court has increased its availability and created more knowledgeable judges, attorneys, and consumers. At the same time, the challenge exists to maintain the integrity and alternative nature of the process. To this end, Rosenthal and others commented on the important role that C-DRUM plays in educating the business, human resource, and legal communities through its continuing education programs and research. “When lawyers develop the ability to use ADR to help their clients, it benefits the legal system as a whole,” said Rosenthal.
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Rachel Wohl ’88
Rachel Wohl served as the first executive director of the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO). While a student at Maryland Carey Law, Wohl took a counseling and negotiation course. This course, combined with her constitutional law clinic, a paper on community mediation, and conversations with Professor Mike Millemann, convinced her that she could use her role as a lawyer to “be an agent for social change.” Her law school experiences sparked her initial interest in ADR, but her involvement in the field did not fully take off until, while at the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, she represented the state in three related employment cases. A skillful mediator helped the parties settle all three cases in just two days of mediation—cases that would have taken years in court. The practicality of this process led her toward a career in mediation. As she became more involved in the field, she realized that the landscape of ADR in Maryland needed to change. She wrote a proposal to then Chief Judge Robert M. Bell to create an ADR Commission. Wohl was hired as its Executive Director, where she was given the freedom to grow the committee into what is now known as MACRO.
Although Wohl recently retired, she is not slowing down. As she moves forward in her career, she plans to expand her practice. Internationally, she will continue her work with Mediators Beyond Borders and grow her new business, Conflict Specialists International, LLC. In addition, she and University of Florida Levin School of Law Professor Leonard Riskin have developed a mindfulness tool, “Taking STOCK,” to help dispute resolvers integrate mindfulness into their practice and lives. Wohl teaches a class on mindfulness for Mediation Clinic students and a mindfulness course with the East Coast Professional Skills Program.
Wohl has had many meaningful experiences within the field. She recalled a specific situation from early in her career that remains with her to this day. The mediation involved two young women who both had a child by the same man. They engaged in years of conflict resulting in charges of assault, harassment, and peace orders. A shared desire to stay out of court led the women to agree to mediation. Upon entering the room, both women appeared hostile in tone of voice and body language. As the mediation progressed, they began to understand each other and see their similarities. During the mediation they realized that their feud was extending to their children. By the end of the mediation they had exchanged phone numbers and made plans to get the children together. To witness the women transform from enemies to allies was profound and remains an example of the power of the process.
Reflecting upon her work at MACRO, she describes it as “a collaboration; to work with judges and court staff and move ADR programs forward. It was an opportunity to dream up projects and make them reality.” She has become the “agent for social change” that Maryland Carey Law inspired her to be.
C-DRUM would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Rachel Wohl for all she has done for the field of ADR in Maryland, nationally, and internationally. Through her leadership and vision, ADR has grown exponentially throughout the state from courts to communities, playgrounds to prisons, businesses to bureaucracies. Wohl commented that she measures her success by “knowing I have made a contribution to positive social change through collaboration and through deep meaningful relationships with people in the office and the field.” By that measure, she has been enormously successful.
Mala Malhotra-Ortiz ’04
Mala Malhotra-Ortiz’s favorite thing about being a neutral as compared to an attorney is that it gives her “a breath of fresh air not to have to be attached to an outcome.” Over the years, she has consistently taken on the role of negotiator, mediator, and change agent to realize her passion for helping people, organizations, and businesses to resolve their own conflicts and achieve their goals.
Her involvement in ADR began in high school when she was trained as a peer mediator. This experience sparked her interest in collaborative processes. Malhotra-Ortiz credits her time at Maryland Carey Law with broadening her perspective. As she reflected, “sometimes human problems fit into a legal box and sometimes they don’t.”
A former PeaceCorps volunteer in Paraguay, Malhotra-Ortiz currently applies her vast skill set and expertise in her role as the director of alternative dispute resolution at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. She mediates approximately one hundred cases per year and reviews all civil appeals to assess their suitability for an order to prehearing conference or mediation. She also trains judges in conflict coaching, communications, mediation, and settlement conferencing. Malhotra-Ortiz gives back to her alma mater, often mentoring Maryland Carey Law students as interns and judging ADR Team competitions.
Her experience within the legal field has helped to inform her successes and triumphs as a mediator. “I was led to my current position because of my diverse experience with many forms of ADR (arbitration, negotiations and mediation), teaching experience, and litigating many areas of civil law.” As an experienced mediator in so many areas of ADR, Malhotra-Ortiz advises law graduates to “go out of your way to push the envelope in order to grow and improve.”
Scottie Reid ’82
When Scottie Reid attended Maryland Carey Law, the school did not offer any dispute resolution courses. Her training and experience in dispute resolution developed when former Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran gave employees in the Attorney General’s office the opportunity to take a 40-hour mediation training. This first training sparked her interest in the field.
Reid’s advice for current law students is to take ADR classes, get involved in the field, and exercise self-awareness. “Working in ADR presents opportunities for professional and personal growth on a daily basis and brings a great deal of responsibility.” Currently, Reid works as deputy director at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals Alternative Dispute Resolution Division. In this position she screens appeals to determine whether the appeal is appropriate for ADR, schedules the mediation, co-mediates appeals with one of the retired judges on the roster, and drafts post-mediation orders.
Through her work she has identified many advantages to dispute resolution: it gives attorneys another way to help their clients solve problems, it provides parties a voice in a system where they often feel powerless, and it broadens the court’s range of solutions. Not only does she practice ADR daily in her career, she also implements the approaches learned in ADR into her everyday life. She credits her skills with “changing [her] as a person” and contributing to improvements in her personal and professional life. “It is not something you ever truly master,” said Reid, “ADR is a life skill and I am forever working on it.”
Jonathan Rosenthal ’91
As the executive director of the District Court of Maryland Alternative Dispute Office, Jonathan Rosenthal advises law graduates to “always keep an eye open to opportunity, because one never knows when it will come.” His past experiences and successes reflect his own openness to new avenues to conflict resolution.
Rosenthal’s legal career began in private practice, where he concentrated on family law, bankruptcy, and personal injury defense. A particularly contentious divorce case pushed him to explore other methods of resolving conflicts. He was reminded of his mediation trainer’s advice to practice what he learned. Shortly thereafter he immersed himself in the Maryland ADR community. After seeing the positive outcomes of ADR, Rosenthal gradually converted his law practice into an ADR practice.
In his position in the District Court, Rosenthal contributes greatly to the Maryland Judiciary’s rich ADR landscape. With the help of his colleagues, his office creates partnerships with private practitioners, community mediation centers, and other partners—including the Maryland Carey Law Mediation Clinic—to provide mediation and settlement conference services in the District Court.
In 2010, Rosenthal served as a visiting professor co-teaching the Mediation Clinic, an opportunity he characterizes as “one of my most meaningful experiences within the field. I was in the first class to go through the Cardin Clinic program. Being able to view the clinical program from the very different sides of student and teacher has been incredibly rewarding.” The experience helped him to appreciate the acclaim that Maryland Carey Law receives nationally for its law clinics.
Maureen Denihan ’04
As deputy director of the District Court of Maryland ADR Office, Maureen Denihan enjoys interacting with the public. She says “it is most rewarding for me to receive a call from a member of the public who is frustrated with their conflict and confused about their options and to be able to spend the time speaking with them about what they’re going through.” She finds it gratifying to hear the appreciation in individual’s voices after she walks them through their dispute resolution options. The District Court ADR Office and its hundreds of volunteer neutrals are often the first level of dispute resolution for many civil cases in the Maryland courts.
Denihan reflects fondly upon her days at Maryland Carey Law. She said that the ADR courses “opened my eyes to analytical thinking and to writing in a way that judges and court administrators appreciate.” Moving forward, Denihan views the integration of ADR courses in the core law school curriculum as a great opportunity for the field of ADR in Maryland.
Upon graduating from law school, Denihan joined the District Court of Maryland ADR Office and has remained instrumental in the growth and success of the program. Moving forward, she would like to see the ADR Office as a more integrated resource before the day of trial. Denihan routinely supervises ADR interns from Maryland Carey Law, an experience which she finds incredibly meaningful. She is excited to see how law school graduates use ADR in their careers and how they often change their views about conflict as they learn about the array of tools that exist to resolve disputes.