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John Bickermen

Scheinman Advisory Board Spotlight: John Bickerman

Name: John Bickerman
Current professional position:  Full-time ADR Professional
Education: BS/MS (ILR); JD (Georgetown)
Career highlights:  
As a neutral: 

  • Extremely varied practice – commercial, insurance coverage, construction, mass torts, environmental, natural resources, water rights, cases involving Indian tribes.
  •  Mediated between Israelis and Palestinians in Israel; spoke to leaders of Jordanian insurance industry and helped develop an ADR program for claims in Jordan.
  • Testified twice before Congress in an effort to settle multi-billion dollar tribal trust dispute.
  • Settled $3 billion in claims

As an Economist:

  •  Testified multiple times before Congress on income security policies
  • Constructed a statistic of the percentage of the unemployed receiving unemployment benefits that the BLS now publishes.
  • Produced economic analysis that led to legislative changes, including a more favorable calculation of adjustment of SSI benefits;
  • Produced a report on the military retirement system.  Testified before Congress. The testimony and report were used as the basis for changing the annual adjustment of military retirement benefits.
  • Debated Arthur Laffer on a television.

Professional experience:

  • Senior economist, US DHHS
  • Clerk, Federal District Judge, William B. Bryant
  • Associate, Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler
  • Principal, Bickerman Dispute Resolution, LLC

Most memorable professional experience:

  • Speaking to out of work steelworkers in Erie, PA during recession of 1982;
  • Testifying in front of a joint congressional committee regarding the settlement of multi-billion claim brought by American Indians over mishandling of their trust accounts;
  • Signing of Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.
  • The biggest challenges now and ahead for mediation and arbitration:
  • Ensuring that arbitration does not become litigation
  •  Advancing the understanding of mediation to areas of conflict where it is little used

How has the pandemic changed your work:
Virtual hearings and mediations are challenging because of the difficulty of seeing the whole room and observing the body language and non-verbal cues that participants show.
What is your motivation to be involved with the Scheinman Institute:
I’ve always believed that the Scheinman Institute can be a leader in the field.  The Institute and the ILR school do the best empirical research of any institution.  Creating greater visibility for the Institute and expanding its reach have always been a focus for me.
Personal experience working with the Scheinman Institute and/or ILR :
I’ve taught a class at Cornell in Ithaca for the last 10 years.  Every year, I’ve spoken to student on campus about my practice and career opportunities.  I’ve hired interns to work in my office and generally, been available to ILR students seeking professional advice.  I’ve kept in touch with many students after they have graduated.
Advice to students in the conflict resolution field:
The skills learned in negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution, more generally, are life skills that can be used in so many different situations.  One doesn’t need to become a practicing neutral to apply these skills.  For those students that do want to become a neutral, they should find an area where they can be proficient and practice using the skills.  It’s hard to become a neutral immediately after graduation but gaining substantive expertise is a good foundation for eventually transitioning to the field of conflict resolution.