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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.

ADR | Measures of Impact

600+ Cases Mediated

By USC Gould Law Students in just the past year

10 Judges

Current or retired judges on the ADR Program advisory board

65+ years

Of teaching arbitration and mediation at USC Gould

Academic Programs

Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR)

The MDR degree immerses students in immediately applicable legal approaches to dispute resolution, including negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

Format: Full-Time | Part-Time | On-Campus
Eligibility: Bachelor’s Degree
Start: Fall | Spring

LLM in Alternative Dispute Resolution (LLM in ADR)

Our LLM in ADR is designed for law graduates interested in building strength as an advocate in ADR processes, including as a mediator or arbitrator.

Format: Full-Time | Part-Time | On Campus
Eligibility: JD, LLB or equivalent
Start: Fall | Spring 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Certificate

Our 12-unit standalone ADR certificate is ideal for professionals who want to advance their careers with specialized training in dispute resolution practices and skills.

Format: Part-Time | On Campus
Eligibility: Bachelor's Degree
Start: Fall or Spring

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.

Clinical Education

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

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.

Dorothy W. Nelson

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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.

Richard Peterson

Director of the USC Gould School of Law Center for Dispute Resolution and Adjunct Professor of Law
Each year the Southern California Mediation Association 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 was USC Gould Professor and Center for Dispute Resolution Director Richard Peterson. Peterson joined his USC Gould colleague Professor Lisa Klerman among the list of L. Randolph Lowry Award honorees.

Jack R. Goetz

Lecturer in Law

USC Gould 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.

USC Gould is a leader and pioneer in ADR education, with an innovative legacy going back more than 60 years. Today, the law school’s dispute resolution programs train students from across the United States and around the world. Our mediation-focused clinics help resolve hundreds of cases each year, and our JD, LLM in ADR, MDR, and ADR certificate students help improve people’s lives through their work, from special education and family conflicts to employment disputes and disability rights cases.

Dean and Carl Mason Franklin Chair in Law, USC Gould School of Law

Community and Events

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. 

Events include:
  • ADR Speaker Series
  • USC-JAMS Arbitration Institute's Annual Symposium
  • USC-JAMS Arbitration Institute's Entertainment ADR Symposium
  • SCMA Annual Conference
ADR Newsletter

Read stories and news about alternative dispute resolution faculty, students, and alumni in our ADR newsletter! Subscribe to our mailing list today to receive the latest USC Gould ADR news, including the ADR Quarterly.

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.

Why USC Gould

Top reasons to study dispute resolution at USC Gould


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


Convenient and flexible scheduling


Scholarships offered


Diverse, enriching learning environment


Receive career and professional support


Become a Member of CIArb, one of the world's most recognized credentials in arbitration


Create new career opportunities


Join the Trojan Family


Gain hands-on practical skill development