In Memoriam: Frank Sander, 1927-2018

We are saddened to learn of the passing of one of the great teachers and scholars in the field of dispute resolution, Frank E. A. Sander, A.B. LL.B, Bussey Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School

Sander is widely credited with being one of the founders of our field of alternative dispute resolution due the extraordinary impact of his paper, “The Varieties of Dispute Processing,” presented at the Roscoe Pound Conference in 1976, as well as years of scholarship, teaching, and mentorship in the field. Only just last year Sander joined us for our 10th anniversary symposium, as he continued to engage with and encourage the newest generation in ADR.

“His intellectual leadership, his enthusiasm and his generosity have all been essential in moving the alternative dispute resolution movement from a snowball to an avalanche.”  ~ Ronald Olson

After graduating from Harvard Law School (HLS) Sander served as clerk to both Chief Judge Magruder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and to Justice Felix Frankfurter of the U.S. Supreme Court. He became a professor of law at HLS in 1962, the Bussey Professor in 1981, and served as associate dean from 1987 to 2000. He was a scholar and author in the fields of tax and family law, in addition to alternative dispute resolution.

In 1966 Sander was the director of a summer program at HLS which brought 40 African American college students to Cambridge for the purpose of interesting them in a legal career. Opening the legal field to all was important to him and he also served as chairman of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, as a member of the Committee on Civil and Political Rights of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women.

“While devotion to achieving positive change is a key aspect of Frank’s leadership, his personality is another vital one. His personal warmth, love of new ideas, inclination toward mentoring others, and sense of humor all.”  ~ Nancy Rogers

In the 70s Sander became active in the pursuit of alternative methods of dispute resolution and developed the idea of what became known as the

Frank Sander speaking at HNMCP’s 10th Anniversary Symposium

“multidoor courthouse,” now utilized in many cities in the U.S. and abroad. He taught several courses at Harvard, both introductory and specialized, in negotiation and mediation, as well as courses for lawyers already practicing in the field through the Program on Negotiation. In 1990 he was appointed to the Commission on the Future of the Courts in Massachusetts and served as co-chair of the Commission’s Task Force on Alternative Paths to Justice and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution. He was a member of the drafting committee on the Conference of Commissioners on the Uniform State Law’s project to develop a Uniform Mediation Ace.


Among many publications, Sander co-authored a comprehensive work on the subject titled Dispute Resolution: Negotiation, Mediation and other Processes, which won the Outstanding Book on Dispute Resolution from the Center for Public Resources. He served as co-director of Harvard Law School’s Program on Dispute Resolution.

“Frank’s quick wit and dry humor also kept us from getting too pedantic; we sometimes sounded more like the Marx brothers than a Harvard Law School teaching team.”  ~ Linda Singer and Michael Lewis

David Hoffman and Frank Sander

Sander was awarded many honors in the field, including the Whitney North Seymour Medal by the American Arbitration Association for distinguished service and the Robert J. Kutak medal from the American Bar Association for the person “who meets the highest standards of professional responsibility an demonstrates substantial achievement towards increased understanding between legal education and the active practice of law. He also received the D’Alemberte-Raven medal for outstanding contribution to the field of dispute resolution and the Lifelong Achievement Award by the International Academy of Mediators among many others, and the American Bar Association established the annual Frank E. A. Sander Lecture Series on Dispute Resolution.

Sander served as a labor arbitrator for 45 years, as well as a mediator through the Suffolk (Boston) Superior Court Mediation Program and the Middlesex (Cambridge) Multidoor Courthouse Project.

“In so many ways, Frank Sander has been the mentor to the dispute resolution field. He has coached junior scholars as they navigated the shoals of academic hiring and advancement. He has counseled lawyers and other professionals who wanted to transition their careers into mediation or arbitration. And he has provided thoughtful advice and the steady hand of experience to many of the committees, commissions and organizations within our field.”  ~ David Hoffman and Michael Moffitt

You can read more about the process and influences that brought Sander to his Pound Conference presentation in “Special Section: Frank Sander and His Legacy as an ADR Pioneer: Before the Big Bang: The Making of an ADR Pioneer” by Michael L. Moffitt, Professor of Law and former Dean of the University of Oregon School of Law.
You can also find a wonderful appreciation Frank Sander and his various roles as mentor, scholar, friend, and father in the Fall 2012 issue of Dispute Resolution Magazine. All call-out quotes in this piece come from that appreciation.
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