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Center for Dispute Resolution
USC Gould School of Law

Led by award-winning faculty experts, the Center for Dispute Resolution at USC Gould School of Law offers thorough preparation in arbitration, mediation and negotiation through its distinct degree and certificate programs. Students in the program learn to negotiate many types of settlements both inside and outside of the courtroom while gaining skills relevant to any area of legal or business practice.

USC Gould School of Law provides one of the nation’s longest-standing offerings in negotiation, mediation, and dispute resolution. Former USC Gould Dean Dorothy W. Nelson (1967-1979) first introduced mediation and arbitration materials into her courses in 1957 and served on the law school’s faculty until her appointment to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1979. Judge Nelson was instrumental in developing and promoting dispute resolution education and practice in private and public sectors during her long and distinguished career. Her leadership and contributions to dispute resolution education began long before it became popular in legal educational pedagogy.

Judge Nelson's legacy continues today with the USC Gould Center for Dispute Resolution which offers cutting-edge dispute resolution education, and whose students come from diverse backgrounds, varied experience, and diverse perspectives. The Center’s students include judges, lawyers, law students, undergraduates, business owners, and executives, as well as professionals from fields such as education, human resources, military, public safety, medicine, real estate, entertainment, sports, IT, and others. The Center’s students represent more than 40 countries, providing a rich cross-cultural environment that enhances the values of equity and inclusion, as well as student learning and skill development.

Academic Programs

Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR)

Our Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) is designed for exceptional students and professionals interested in taking the next step in their careers as authorities in the field of dispute resolution. Graduates come away with a comprehensive understanding of dispute resolution processes, able to effectively navigate the psycho-social components of healthy dispute resolution and confidently bring parties together in otherwise contentious moments.

The degree program not only provides exceptional in-class education opportunities but encourages students to practice their mediation skills in real-life settings (read more about USC Gould’s clinics and competitions below). In addition to building valuable negotiation, mediation and arbitration skills as an advocate for a client or as a neutral, students in the program will develop and hone business management skills to optimally position themselves for leadership roles in dispute resolution organizations.

The MDR is a rigorous, yet rewarding, 24-unit degree program, offered on a part-time or full-time basis. Students may begin their studies in the fall or spring semesters. No law degree is required for the MDR and you do not need to take the LSAT to apply. Learn more about pursuing an MDR at USC Gould School of Law.

Master of Laws in Alternative Dispute Resolution (LLM in ADR)

Our Master of Laws in Alternative Dispute Resolution (LLM in ADR) is designed for distinguished law graduates and attorneys interested in developing their skills and reputations as advocates in conflict resolution processes and advancing their careers as esteemed mediators or arbitrators.

Graduates leave our program confident in their abilities to effectively participate in negotiations, mediations, and arbitrations as advocates or neutrals. In addition to skills-based instruction, students develop a deep understanding of underlying policies and legal ramifications for a full range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options.

The LLM in ADR is a demanding, yet flexible 24-unit degree program, offered on a part-time or full-time basis. Students may begin their studies in the fall or spring semesters. This LLM is open to anyone with a law degree (JD, LLB or equivalent). Learn more about pursuing an LLM in ADR at USC Gould School of Law.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Certificate (ADR Certificate)

Our standalone certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR certificate) offers specialized training in this ever-growing field. In addition to building valuable negotiation, mediation and arbitration credentials, students develop a keen understanding of underlying policies and legal ramifications for a range of ADR options. Ideal for professionals who want to advance their careers by incorporating dispute resolution practices and skills into their organizations, this certificate attracts professionals from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds.

The 12-unit ADR certificate is offered on a part-time basis. Students may begin their studies in the fall or spring semesters. No law degree or LSAT is required to apply for the ADR certificate. In addition to exceptional in-class education opportunities, including taking courses with LLM in ADR and MDR students, individuals gain access to the vast network and resources offered by USC Gould School of Law. Learn more about pursuing a certificate in ADR at USC Gould School of Law.

Professional Training

At USC Gould School of Law, the Center for Dispute Resolution provides ample opportunity for students to gain hands-on training and professional experience in a range of skills, often in direct service to clients.


Gain firsthand experience using conflict resolution techniques to mediate real cases in Los Angeles County Superior Court through our award-winning mediation clinics.

  • Mediation Clinic (JD)
  • Practical Mediation Skills Clinic (All Graduate Programs)
  • Advanced Mediation Clinic (JD)
  • Family Law Mediation Clinic (JD)

Learn more

Experiential Learning

From in-class simulations to guest speakers and alumni panels, your professors at the Center prioritize experiential learning throughout your coursework, providing immediately applicable skills to help achieve your career goals. USC Gould also provides access to workshops, externships, competitions, networking events and one-on-one guidance for developing your career during your time as a student and beyond.

Meet our Faculty

Our award-winning faculty bring decades of experience and expertise in dispute resolution, supporting students in both academic and professional development.

"The quality of the ADR instructors is phenomenal. They are leaders in the ADR industry — active attorneys, arbitrators, mediators and even though they are leaders they are very approachable."
- Veronica Martinez, MDR ’18

Faculty in the News

Former USC Gould School Dean Dorothy W. Nelson was the only woman on the law school faculty when she introduced mediation and arbitration to her courses in 1957. At the time, her groundbreaking move didn't earn much praise from colleagues. In 2019, Judge Nelson was honored with a lecture series established in her name. Read more.

Each year the Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA) presents the L. Randolph Lowry Award to a member of the dispute resolution community who has honored and inspired others through a passion and dedication to education in this important field. The 2021 recipient is USC Gould School of Law Professor and Center for Dispute Resolution Director Richard Peterson. Professor Peterson joined his USC Gould colleague, Professor Lisa Klerman, among the list of L. Randolph Lowry Award honorees. Klerman received the award from SCMA in 2018. Read more.

USC Gould School of Law Lecturer in Law Jack R. Goetz is the president of MC3, a multi-state nonprofit that certifies mediators for public quality assurance. With extensive experience which includes serving as the academic lead for mediation training programs at universities as well as serving as the 2018 president of the Southern California Mediation Association, Goetz discusses the work of MC3 – and USC Gould’s contributions – to setting professional standards in the field. Read more.

Read more USC Gould Center for Dispute Resolution and faculty news.

Community and Events

Gould Dispute Resolution Society

The Gould Dispute Resolution Society (GDRS) is a student organization focused on creating and promoting educational and practical experiences in dispute resolution, while also facilitating networking opportunities to help students build relationships with professionals in the field. The GDRS works to help develop professionals who can masterfully use the dispute resolution process, in all its forms, to benefit clients, the legal community and society as a whole.

USC Gould students are invited to join the Gould Dispute Resolution Society to further promote educational and networking opportunities.


Events and Continuing Legal Education

The Center for Dispute Resolution offers students ample opportunity to attend professional conferences and speaker series to learn from some of the field's leading practitioners. Annual events include:

  • ADR Speaker Series
  • USC-JAMS Arbitration Institute's Annual Symposium
  • USC-JAMS Arbitration Institute's Entertainment ADR Symposium

Explore Upcoming Events

ADR Newsletter

Read about ADR faculty, students, and alumni in the news in our ADR newsletter!

Read the ADR Brief - Fall/Winter 2022

Subscribe to our mailing list today to receive the latest USC Gould ADR news, including the ADR Quarterly.


Why USC Gould

Top reasons to study dispute resolution at USC Gould:

  • Study at a top 20 law school — earn a master's degree or certificate from a top-ranked law school with a 120-year history and reputation for academic excellence.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is one of the fastest-growing fields — less than 2% of lawsuits make it to trial; today an overwhelming majority of litigation disputes are resolved through ADR.
  • Convenient and flexible scheduling — the majority of classes are held in the evening or on weekends to accommodate working professionals. The law school is located right on the main USC campus in Los Angeles and most programs can be completed in as little as one year.
  • Scholarships offered — merit scholarships are offered to outstanding students who represent the exceptional quality and diversity within the program, with the most outstanding candidates being considered for our Dispute Resolution Scholars Award, which provides full tuition.
  • Diverse, enriching learning environment — our programs welcome students from over 40 different countries, varied professional backgrounds and education levels.
  • Receive career and professional support — includes workshops and individually tailored advice on developing your career plan for mediation or arbitration, as well as mentorship opportunities with dispute resolution professionals, and tools for exam preparation.
  • Join the Trojan Family — a renowned network of 375,000 alumni who are deeply committed to furthering the success of USC graduates. Our more than 10,000 law graduates include partners in the world's largest law firms, leaders of civil rights movements, and CEOs and presidents of multibillion-dollar companies.
  • Gain hands-on practical skill development — learn from faculty who are top-tier neutrals and bring decades of experience in dispute resolution. You'll also have access to clinical and experiential learning opportunities inside and outside of the courtroom that help you become a seasoned professional. USC Gould has partnerships with reputable dispute resolution and mediation organizations including JAMS and the Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA), giving students the opportunity to attend industry events, network and learn about emerging trends in ADR.
  • Become a Member of CIArb, one of the world's most recognized credentials in arbitration — as one of only three Recognized Course Provider schools in the U.S. for the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), a leading professional membership organization representing the interests of ADR practitioners worldwide, USC Gould students are eligible to join CIArb at the Member level upon completion of specified coursework within the ADR curriculum.
  • Create new career opportunities — organizations increasingly use dispute resolution processes to handle business and human resources issues. ADR expertise increases your marketability for a range of work settings, including business, government, human resources, counseling, education and social work. Lawyers trained in dispute resolution also learn to become better advocates for clients regardless of the area of practice.


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