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Welcome from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution


The courts ... should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Former Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Starts Here

In 1986, as a response to changes occurring in the practice of law and legal education, the Caruso School of Law created the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. The time and expense of traditional litigation caused many sophisticated consumers of legal services and court personnel to favor resolving lawsuits through "Alternative Dispute Resolution" (ADR) processes. Attorneys resolving civil disputes recognized that in addition to trial advocacy skills, it was imperative to develop negotiation, mediation, and arbitration advocacy skills. The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution was created to prepare both Pepperdine law students and experienced lawyers to practice law in this changing environment.

Start at the Top

U.S. News & World Report has long recognized Pepperdine's dispute resolution program as a prominent leader in this field. After years of trading places at the top of the rankings with several other elite programs, the Straus Institute has been ranked number one in the country for 13 of the last 14 years.

The Institute offers the most extensive law school dispute resolution curriculum in the country. Courses regularly offered include: Negotiation; Mediation; Advanced Mediation; Psychology of Conflict Communication; International Commercial Arbitration; Arbitration Practice; Environmental and Public Policy Dispute Resolution; Divorce and Family Mediation; Dispute Resolution and Religion; Cross-Cultural Conflict and Dispute Resolution; and Apology, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation. Each of these courses utilizes an interactive participation format and integrates skill-building experiences as well as an academic understanding of the subject matter. To encourage faculty mentoring and coaching of students, course enrollment is typically limited to 24 students.

The Institute's academic program is available to law students, lawyers, and mid-career professionals seeking to develop dispute resolution skills. JD students have the option of seeking the Master of Dispute Resolution (32 units) or the Certificate in Dispute Resolution (12 units). Law students accepted into the Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) program can earn both the JD and the MDR degrees in three years by attending one summer session and four one-week intensive courses. If you are interested in earning the MDR along with your law degree, please contact the Straus Institute at the number below for additional information.

Skills Without Borders

The Institute's excellent curriculum has resulted in extensive off-campus training programs for lawyers, judges, and businesses around the world, including Brazil, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Israel, Argentina, India, Holland, China, Jordan, Rwanda, and throughout the United States. The Institute works in collaboration with many leading dispute resolution entities in the country including Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services (JAMS), American Arbitration Association, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The Institute has also hosted Fulbright scholars from the Czech Republic, Germany, Panama, Tunisia, Egypt, El Salvador, and Moldova and supports the efforts of the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal. All of this is to suggest that Pepperdine Caruso School of Law is a vibrant and energetic environment to study alternative dispute resolution.

Please let me know if you would like additional information about how the Institute's programs could enhance your legal education experience at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law.

I look forward to you becoming a member of our community.


Thomas J. Stipanowich   
William H. Webster Chair in Dispute Resolution,
Professor of Law, Academic Director, &
Associate Dean, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution
Pepperdine | Law
+1 (310) 506-4655

Tom Stipanowich 

More Opportunities

For JD Students

Earn a Certificate or MDR in three years

Dispute Resolution Jobs

ADR in action