Lucie Barron is the President and Founder of ADR Services, Inc., one of the leading providers of alternative dispute resolution services in California. Though a success in her field now, Lucie grew up in the face of great adversity. Born in Germany to Russian parents who were prisoners of war, she spent the first few years of her childhood in a refugee camp before her family immigrated to Australia. She quickly realized the value of education and went on to earn two degrees in psychology, followed by an MBA. She asserts, “I credit my path in life to my lifelong pursuit of learning, developing self-esteem along the way and learning to compartmentalize by exercising resilience and tenacity”.
Besides being a trailblazer in her respective work field, Lucie loves traveling the world and interacting with different kinds of people, cultures, and religions, and seeing how economies have shaped. She feels like a nomad, learning from everyone she encounters along the path of life. As a traveler and dedicated reader, she has synthesized her knowledge to try to be empathic and understanding of humanity.
In an interview with Insights Success, Lucie shared her views on leadership, career challenges, the current pandemic, and future visions for the company.
Below are highlights of the interview:
What were the challenges you came across in your successful business career and in founding ADR Services, Inc.?
At first glance, my psychological, business education and experience is not the archetypical background of those in the legal field. In the wake of a difficult divorce, I abruptly found myself as the sole supporter of seven young children. Serendipitously, personal litigation introduced me to the legal system, where I recognized the value of alternative dispute resolution, an emerging field at that time. After extensive research, studying everything I could find on the subject, I contacted a list of retired judges and invited them to join a fledgling panel to resolve cases outside of court.
Although my vision was frequently met with skepticism from the legal community, it gave me a unique perspective in understanding and tailoring ADR Services, Inc. to the needs of our clients. My lack of legal knowledge taught me to persistently ask questions and seek input from attorneys and jurists on how best to meet the needs of the legal community.
Being an experienced business leader, what is your opinion regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the legal industry? And how has ADR Services, Inc. managed to overcome this significant challenge?
The pandemic and related government-ordered shutdowns have resulted in widespread court closures in California. As a result, courts are operating at a fraction of their previous capacity and many civil trials have been delayed.
We quickly realized that lack of access to the judicial system was going to have significant impact on the opportunity to resolve disputes. Since cases were typically heard in a face-to-face setting, the most overwhelming challenge was pivoting our operations to use technological progress to our advantage. We redeployed our staff and mobilized skillsets to convert our cases to be heard virtually on Zoom.
It was important that the lawyers and their clients adapt to technology as well. As it became increasingly uncertain when we would be able to return to the office, our clients accepted virtual mediations and hearings as a comparable alternative. To assist them with this transition, we expanded our IT staff and provided training to our clients and to our neutrals on how to use the virtual platform.
According to you, what type of dynamism will be needed with Case Managers to ensure smooth functioning in every type of industry?
Case Managers should be ready to continuously learn, adapt, and adjust to developing changes in the company and in the industry. As a result of the pandemic, we had to make major strategic changes in effectively managing our personnel and resources. We provided extensive training and guidance on how to work from home efficiently, and how to utilize personal characteristics to achieve the highest level of performance.
In what ways do you or ADR Services, Inc. contribute to the community? If given a chance, what change would you bring in creating a professional, unconventional, and comfortable environment for dispute resolution services?
Legal disputes are inevitable and we feel that it is our responsibility to assist in the resolution of these disputes and bring peace back to people’s lives. We provide numerous hours of pro bono services yearly, and our commitment to social responsibility includes the support of many nonprofit organizations.
Our staff are trained to be responsive, empathic, and focused on problem-solving. We strive to employ a sense of humanity in our work and to provide clients with the best possible outcome. Part of this care includes focusing on increasing the diversity of our panel to reflect the diversity of our clients and of the world.
What would be your advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs in the dispute resolution industry?
My advice would depend on your objectives:
- As a business administrator, you must first understand the legal industry and business community. Relationships are key. It is crucial to network, make connections and build trust. To grow, you must create confidence in your organization and trust in your personnel. Most importantly, immerse yourself in research and be tenacious. Always say yes to opportunity.
- If you are an ADR professional, you have to learn how to be a mediator/arbitrator. There are a limited number of specific schools to learn these skills. In addition to formal training, shadow current mediators. You have to learn the skillset and practice, practice, practice. A great way to do this is handling pro bono mediations. Promote your expertise with creative business development and marketing.
What is your vision for ADR Services, Inc. for the next five years?
ADR Services, Inc. is leveraging technology to drive resolution, which has expanded our reach both nationwide and globally, and we have been able to service clients all around the world in a way that did not exist pre-pandemic. The barriers of travel, or locality, no longer exist, and our neutrals are available to help resolve matters anywhere across the globe.
With this in mind, there is enormous growth potential. The boundaries are fairly limitless.
What is the one key takeaway/lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Life and business are never predictable. It is important to always plan for uncertainty and to be in a position of adaptability, agility, and flexibility. Being client-centric is paramount. With this as our guiding light, we developed our strategy to meet the needs of our clients so that they too could quickly adapt to global and professional changes impacting our industry and communities.