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Curriculum:
Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) Degree

As an MDR student, you will benefit from clinical and experiential learning experiences that build and deepen your ADR proficiency. As a graduate, you will be able to implement your knowledge in many areas of law and business practice, and will feel confident mediating, arbitrating, negotiating out-of-court settlements, and generally managing the ADR process and ADR organizations.

We recognize that you must balance your law studies with work, family and other responsibilities. We offer flexible scheduling that allows you to take classes during the day or in the late afternoon and evening. We also offer some weekend classes.

Five courses are required for all students:

  • ADR Legal Principles
  • ADR Specialized Study
  • ADR Law and Policy: Arbitration and Mediation
  • ADR Ethics
  • Cross-Cultural Dispute Resolution

In addition to these mandatory courses, you must select from among our ADR electives to complete the 27 units required for the degree. Course selection varies each semester depending on interest and availability.

Management of ADR Organizations Track (optional)

This interdisciplinary track is designed to prepare you for leadership roles in all organizations, including those that may specialize in ADR. You may enroll in courses offered by other graduate schools at USC, including the Marshall School of Business, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and the Price School of Public Policy.

If you are interested in the Management of ADR Organizations Track, you must complete the mandatory Business Fundamentals for Non-Business Professionals as well as a minimum of six units in the following courses:

  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Communications, Values, Attitudes and Behavior
  • Organizational Conflict
  • Human Resources Management in Public and Not-for-Profit Sectors

The courses taken for the Management Track will be applied toward the 27 units required by the MDR degree. Only students who are enrolled in the Management Track will be able to enroll in the non-law course offerings.

Course Descriptions

Select a course below to view a more detailed description.

ADR Clause Drafting

ADR Clause Drafting teaches how to identify and draft language recognizing anticipated, and the potential for unanticipated, consequences of a contemplated business transaction or actual dispute as well as the nature of the parties and their relationship. It instills essential ADR skills to identify, negotiate and draft specific to a contemplated business transaction or actual dispute.

ADR Ethics

ADR Ethics provides students, lawyers and professional neutrals with an in-depth examination of the rules guiding behavior in various dispute resolution processes.

ADR Law and Policy: Arbitration and Mediation

This course explores the origin, development and practice of mediation, arbitration and other forms of ADR, emphasizing the policies underlying these increasingly significant and evolving areas.

ADR Legal Principles

This survey course for those who have not earned a JD in a U.S. law school helps students gain an understanding of the legal framework for the dispute resolution processes in which they will participate.

Arbitration Advocacy

Arbitration Advocacy introduces the basic approaches to preparing and presenting cases in the arbitration context.

Arbitration in the United States

Arbitration in the United States explores the range of issues addressed by the Federal Arbitration Act and state arbitration laws.

Business Organizations *

This course explores organizations of economic activity — especially the modern corporation — as institutions of social power, along with the roles of managers, owners and public regulatory agencies in shaping processes of decision making.

Constitutional Law *

This course covers the delineation of spheres of responsibility between the three branches of the federal government, the federal government and the states, and the government and individuals.

Contracts *

Contracts explores the interpretation and enforcement of promises and agreements.

Criminal Procedure *

This course focuses on criminal procedure in the courts as well as the regulation of law enforcement by the courts through rules of evidence and interpretation of the Bill of Rights.

Cross-Cultural Dispute Resolution

This course brings an international perspective to understanding the impact of culture in the most commonly used international and domestic dispute resolution practices (negotiation, mediation and arbitration).

Employment Dispute Mediation

Employment Dispute Mediation provides hands-on experience in the mediation of the complex issues of disability, wage and hour, sex and sex harassment, age, race, religion and national origin.

Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Online Dispute Resolution

Presents the theoretical groundwork of online dispute resolution (ODR) and prepares students to be successful neutrals in ODR settings.

Evidence *

This course focuses on the purpose and character of trials, problems of adversary presentation and the nature of proof, and the basis for admission and exclusion of evidence in judicial proceedings.

Family Law Mediation Clinic

The Family Law Mediation Clinic teaches the skills and substantive area of the law necessary to successfully mediate cases in children's court, working with real clients at the Edelman Children's courthouse in Monterey Park.

Gifts, Wills and Trusts *

This course explores the transfer of wealth, especially the transmission of wealth from one generation to the next as a settlement of family affairs. It also covers the comparative analysis of the legal mechanisms of gifts, wills and trusts, and introduces students to problems of fiduciary administration.

International Arbitration

International Arbitration examines methods of dispute resolution used in other countries and compares them to those employed in the United States.

International Investment Law and Arbitration

This course instills a greater in-depth understanding of the key issues and legal questions that arise in international business dispute resolution.

Labor Arbitration

Labor Arbitration explores the National Labor Relations Act, collective bargaining and the labor arbitration process. Students also prepare labor arbitration briefs.

Legal Profession *

This course focuses on the functions of the lawyer in modern society; history and organization of the legal profession; the adversary system; equal access to justice; and other problems of ethics and professional responsibility.

Mediation Advocacy

Mediation Advocacy examines the process of mediation, explores the philosophical approaches to mediation and different styles of mediating, develops a working knowledge of the stages of mediation, and cultivates skills essential to becoming effective advocates throughout each stage of the process.

Negotiation Theory and Application

Examines origin and types of conflicts that arise within organizations. Includes designing systems to prevent conflict from developing or escalating, as well as developing a culture of collaboration and creativity.

Organizational Conflict

Gould School of Law
This course examines the origin and types of conflicts that arise within complex organizations. It teaches students how to design systems to prevent conflict from developing or escalating and how to develop a culture of collaboration and creativity.

Practical Mediation Skills Clinic (Summer Session)

In this clinic, students learn basic and advanced mediation skills, practice skills in simulated mediations and, upon certification by the instructor, mediate in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Remedies *

Remedies compares the remedial goals of contracts, torts and property law, and the impact of procedural devices in law and equity. It covers damages, injunctions, specific performance and restitution, and remedial theory and transactional application.

Sales *

Sales analyzes the buying and selling of goods both in domestic and international transactions with a heavy focus on Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Secured Transactions *

This course covers Chattel paper and secured transactions involving personal property under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code and some related bodies of law.

Topics in American Law *

This course provides LLM and MCL students with a survey of various topics in American law, including criminal law, evidence, family law, constitutional law, torts, wills and trusts, administrative law and property law.

Business Fundamentals for Non-Business Professionals

Marshall School of Business
Open only to non-business graduate students, this course provides an overview of the concepts, tools and principles of business management to develop a general management point of view.

Communications, Values, Attitudes and Behavior

Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
This course focuses on theory and research on value and attitude formation and change, as well as the consequences for communication and behavior.

Human Resources Management in Public and Not-for-Profit Sectors

Price School of Public Policy
This course explores merit principles, position classification, recruitment and selection, compensation, organizational development and labor relations, as well as challenges and strategies for managing a diverse workforce.

Social Entrepreneurship

Marshall School of Business
Social Entrepreneurship focuses on how to lead and manage with entrepreneurial methodology for charities, nongovernmental organizations, social-oriented enterprises and nonprofits.

*These courses are LLM/MDR-only sections; MDR students may not enroll in the JD sections of these courses. Availability of these courses is currently pending approval from the University Curriculum Office.

If you seek to apply transfer credit toward your degree, please email adr@law.usc.edu to determine eligibility.

Students who are licensed to practice in their home jurisdictions will be eligible to sit for the CA bar exam. If you are an international student interested in studying MDR as part of a comprehensive study plan that will allow you to seek admission to the bar in the U.S., you may wish to consider the traditional LLM degree with a certificate in ADR. The MDR degree will not provide the educational prerequisites necessary to sit for a U.S. bar exam.

California Bar Exam Eligibility

Students who are licensed to practice in their home jurisdictions will be eligible to sit for the California bar exam without additional course requirements.

If you are not yet licensed to practice, you may enroll in 12 units of courses required by the California bar as part of the MDR degree regardless of your intent or eligibility to sit for the California bar. Enrollment in the MDR degree does not guarantee that you will be able to take the exam.

If you are an international student interested in studying ADR as part of a comprehensive study plan that will allow you to seek admission to the New York or District of Columbia (D.C.) bars, you may wish to consider the traditional LLM degree with a certificate in ADR.

If you do not hold a first degree in law, you will not be eligible to sit for the California bar by enrolling in these courses as part of the MDR degree.

Chartered Institute of Arbitrators

USC Gould is a recognized course provider for the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), a leading professional membership organization that represents the interests of ADR practitioners worldwide. If you successfully complete the International Arbitration (LAW-817) course, you will become eligible to apply for CIArb membership, giving you a professional credential with international recognition.

Degree Outcomes

Through the MDR degree, you will develop:

  • an understanding of the underlying policies and legal ramifications for the range of ADR options that are available
  • an expansive skillset for conducting ADR processes, both as a practitioner and as a neutral
  • appropriate ethical guidelines as a neutral while conducting ADR processes
  • an understanding of the wide variety of ADR policies and issues that affect practitioners engaged in an ADR practice
  • an ability to apply concepts, tools and principles of business management necessary for leadership in ADR organizations (if you select the Management of ADR Organizations emphasis)

Career Resources

As a graduate of the MDR degree, you will be able to achieve greater levels of success within your current organization, or may use the degree to prepare for a career as a mediator or arbitrator. USC Gould offers both a Mediation Career Workshop and an Arbitration Career Workshop to our ADR degree students. These workshops include specific student group and individualized guidance on:

  • building business plans for ADR practice
  • developing materials to market your ADR practice
  • networking to build your ADR practice
  • operating your ADR practice as a business

In addition to developing a practice as a mediator or arbitrator, many types of careers benefit from exposure to ADR practices. Our courses are developed to build widely useful skills such as communication, problem-solving, management and team-building.

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