Haub Law Alumna Lisa Denig ’09: ADR Pioneer

October 25, 2022
Lisa Denig

Lisa Denig has dedicated much of her career to pioneering Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiatives within the New York State Court System. Recently, Lisa started a new position as Principal Settlement Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District within the New York State Unified Court System. “I am tasked with creating and expanding opportunities for ADR in all the courts in the 9th JD,” said Lisa. “Not long ago, settlement or mediation were thought of as secondary to years of discovery, enormous cost outlays, and time spent on trial preparation. That is no longer the case. Today, attorneys come prepared-at the preliminary conference - to discuss alternative ways to resolve their case. Alternative dispute resolution is not the wave of the future, it is the present.”

A dedicated alumna of Haub Law, Lisa is giving back to the law school in another way now: as an adjunct professor teaching Survey of Dispute Resolution Processes. Lisa is also an active member of Haub Law’s advisory board, the Board of Visitors. “Pace gave me the tools I needed to have a successful legal career after law school,” she said. “I am thrilled to remain involved with my alma mater and help set students on their path for ADR success. I loved my time as a law student and love that things have come full circle and I am now teaching at the school.”

In 2019, Lisa Denig was appointed Special Counsel for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiatives for the NYS Office of Court Administration, overseeing one of the most innovative programs to date in the New York Court system: the creation and implementation of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s initiative, the New York State Presumptive ADR Program. The Presumptive ADR Program was to be implemented in all five boroughs in addition to three specialty courts inside New York City. A certified mediator herself, Lisa is a strong advocate for requiring early ADR in civil court cases and strongly believed in and advocated for the initiative long before it came to fruition.

Lisa notes, “In order to implement this program properly, I had to meet with bar associations, ADR groups and other stakeholders to incorporate them into the new program as well as provide the necessary training opportunities for court staff and outside lawyers. I worked with numerous committees to create rules, templates, develop a data tracking system, along with evaluation forms so we could actually see how the newly instituted program was working and report this to the Chief Judge.”  

The program was a success, but it was an uphill battle at times. When asked about one of the biggest challenges she faced, Lisa answered: diversity. “I knew that there would be a diversity issue in the pool of mediators, but did not realize how serious it was. On the first day the mediation program was rolled out in New York City Civil Court, we had four cases that were amenable to mediation-all of whom spoke Spanish-and one Spanish interpreter. This brought home the issue of culture and diversity in mediation as well as all the concerns about access to justice that such challenges raise. From there, I made it a point to promote mediation trainings for diverse attorneys, connect with affinity bar associations, and more.”

Due in part to Lisa’s work, ADR plans were created that require litigants to attempt some form of ADR early in the stages of a civil case. The required ADR may include settlement conferences with judges or court staff, mediation, arbitration, or summary jury trials. Statistically speaking, the NYS Presumptive ADR Program is massive; Lisa notes that it deals with “over 1 million civil filings per year and more than 800,000 of those are in New York City alone.”  In recent years, in recognition of her work advancing the Presumptive ADR Initiative, Lisa was recognized as one of New York Law Journal’s Attorney Innovators of the Year.

After serving as Special Counsel for ADR Initiatives for two and a half years, in 2021, Lisa accepted a position as Counsel to New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. In this role, Lisa remained the Chief Judge’s liaison to the Presumptive ADR Initiative, which gave her the opportunity to remain active in the programs she spent years building.  Previously, Lisa spent nearly eight years at the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office in a variety of roles. Today, Lisa is thrilled to be fully back in the ADR fold. “ADR is where my passion lies and I am excited to make an impact both in the classroom at Haub Law and also as Settlement Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District.”

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