American Bar Association
Section of Dispute Resolution: Ombuds Committee

Section of Dispute Resolution: Ombuds Committee



The Ombuds Committee is pleased to announce that Resolution 103, which it sponsored through the Dispute Resolution Section, was adopted by the American Bar Association House of Delegates on August 14, 2017 with the support of several other sections, divisions and committees of the ABA and without any opposition. The ABA has long been a leader in supporting ombuds programs, having previous adopted ombuds related Resolutions in 1969, 1971, 2001, and 2004.

Resolution 103 provides: RESOLVED that the American Bar Association encourages greater use and development of ombuds programs that comply with generally recognized standards of practice, as an effective means of preventing, managing, and resolving individual and systemic conflicts and disputes.

By urging the greater use of ombuds programs that comply with generally recognized standards of practice, the ABA joins the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) which reached the same conclusion in December 2016, following a two year comprehensive study of the use of ombuds programs in the federal government.

See a copy of Resolution 103 and the Report accompanying it, and a copy of ACUS Recommendation 2016-5. These links are also available to the right.


Join the Ombuds Committee! We welcome classical, executive, organizational, advocate, and other ombuds in the federal, state, corporate, and academic sectors. The one-year associate membership offers access to the ABA, newsletters, journal, website, the Dispute Resolution (DR) Section, and the Ombuds Committee. Learn more about this special rate. Apply here and learn about other ABA sections.


Mission: The Ombuds Committee seeks to promote a better understanding and increased utilization of appropriately designed, supported, and implemented ombuds programs in organizations of all types.

Vision: An ABA membership that is professionally interested in, properly informed about, and appropriately interacts with ombuds concepts and programs, so that lawyers, law firms, and their clients may expand their awareness and usage of and engagement with all types of ombuds programs.

Goals: To fulfill this Mission, the Ombuds Committee will pursue the following goals that align with the three principal goals of the ABA (Serve Our Members, Improve Our Profession, and Eliminate Bias and Enhance Diversity):

1. Inform and educate the ABA Membership and law firm leadership, as well as private and government organizations, about ombuds programs, including how these programs function, contribute benefits, and advance society.

2. Advocate for the creation of new high quality ombuds programs, designed and operated in accord with the appropriate codes of conduct and standards of practice, in public institutions and private organizations of all types, including law firms.

3. Encourage and support publication of articles and research that rigorously assess and advance ombuds programs and practitioners alike, to be included in ABA and other publications.

4. Develop ombuds specific CLE and other educational presentations.

5. Promote competence in the profession by supporting adherence to and broader adoption of generally accepted codes of conduct and standards of practice for ombuds.

6. Serve as a clearing-house to interested parties, providing information and research in support of the ombuds concept, role, and profession.

7. Encourage the ABA to adopt a resolution encouraging the greater use of ombuds programs.

8. Promote the review and assessment of the use of ombuds and the effectiveness of ombuds programs.

Success Metrics: By January 1, 2019, the OC will have:

· Supported the successful adoption of an ABA resolution advocating for the increased use of ombuds.

· Increased membership in the Ombuds Committee, the Dispute Resolution Section, and the ABA as a whole by ombuds and other conflict management professionals, as well as increased membership in the various ombuds professional associations by ABA members who were not previously involved with the ombuds field.

· Conducted multiple well-received presentations, trainings, and discussions focused on the ombuds/legal communityinterface, at ABA conferences and meetings.

· Distributed an information packet describing ombuds programs suitable for consideration by law firms, their clients, law schools, business schools, educational dispute resolution programs, and other organizations.

· Increased coursework about ombuds in graduate programs, including law schools.

· Established and strengthened liaisons with other ABA entities and other ombuds organizations with a shared subject matter focus including private associations, educational institutions, and other organizations (both public and private).

Background: Ombudsman Programs – Classical/Traditional, Organizational, Advocate, and others – provide significant benefits and advantages to individuals and organizations (both public and private) in the management of conflict.

The ABA previously has recognized the contributions the ombuds role plays in society and has contributed to the advancement of the ombuds field through the adoption of resolutions in 1969, 1971, 2001, and 2004 that (1) support the greater use of ombuds professionals to help resolve disputes and manage conflicts, and (2) create standards for the establishment and operation of ombuds offices.

These resolutions have had a significant impact on the ombuds field (though not without controversy, due to the divergent interests represented in the wide range of ombuds types) and were to varying degrees accepted or rejected by the broader ombuds community.

In the decade since the last resolution, the ombudsman field has grown, especially in academia and the federal government. Concurrently, the number of attorneys in ombudsman roles has also grown, although legal expertise is not a requirement for all ombudsman positions.

The leadership of the Dispute Resolution Section, in the interest of serving its members and promoting the effective resolution of disputes, in late 2013 reestablished an Ombuds Committee within the Dispute Resolution Section.

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Adams, Caroline
Howard, Charles

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Resolutions and ABA Articles about Ombuds

Related Resources

Law School Teaching Materials about Ombuds

The ABA's DRS Ombuds Committee created a presentation and guide for law schools to use as teaching materials. (2016)

Law Firm Ombuds Programs

The ABA's DRS Ombuds Committee created a sample charter, brochure, and FAQs for law firms considering the creation of an ombuds program. (2017)

K-12 School Ombuds Programs

The ABA's DRS Ombuds Committee created PowerPoint presentations and a Toolkit with various sample resources for K-12 Ombuds Programs. (2017)

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