The Lawyer with the ADR Tattoo

Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 14, Winter 2013

26 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2012 Last revised: 22 Mar 2013

Date Written: September 26, 2012


Should you hide it at the interview? For the first few months on the job? For longer, at least until you have figured out the workplace culture? If you don’t hide it, should you be concerned about the message you are sending to clients and colleagues about your professional competence? Your intellectual talents? Your ability to get the job done?

When it comes to lawyers and tattoos, the conventional wisdom is clear: hide the ink. Although more than 45 million Americans today have a tattoo, and although “creative” professions such as marketing and graphic design have readily adopted tattoo culture, more conservative industries such as law and finance still do not welcome visible tattoos in the workplace. Tattoos have historic associations with “sailors, criminals, the ‘savage’ races, and circus entertainers,” none of which are generally in keeping with what most believe a lawyer ought to look like. As one anonymous online poster puts it, “if I walked into a lawyer’s office and noticed a lawyer had a tattoo I would walk straight out again.”

When it comes to lawyers and alternative dispute resolution (ADR), the conventional wisdom appears to be the same: hide it — that is, downplay any propensities toward creative, nonadversarial, collaborative practice. This conventional wisdom seems especially true for newly graduated lawyers seeking employment and junior law faculty seeking tenure. Despite the tremendous growth of ADR inside and outside traditional legal processes, many potential clients and employers still appear to yearn for the razor-sharp take-no-prisoners litigator or dealmaker.

This Essay considers whether ADR presents a branding problem for legal professionals and, if so, how those professionals can reclaim the brand in productive, career-affirming ways. Whether one should self-identify as proponent, practitioner, or scholar of alternative practices implicates broad tensions not only around assimilating with integrity into any longstanding change-resistant profession but also around the shortcomings of the adversarial system and the legitimacy of ADR.

Keywords: ADR, dispute resolution

Suggested Citation

Reynolds, Jennifer Wenska, The Lawyer with the ADR Tattoo (September 26, 2012). Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 14, Winter 2013, Available at SSRN:

Jennifer Wenska Reynolds (Contact Author)

University of Oregon School of Law ( email )

1515 Agate Street
Eugene, OR Oregon 97403
United States
541-346-3691 (Phone)

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