Richard W. Shields

Lawyer • Mediator • Arbitrator

Click here for Richard’s CV

I was admitted to the practice of law in Ontario in 1976. Early in my legal career, family law emerged as my preferred area of practice. In 1977, the Unified Family Court was introduced as a pilot project in Hamilton. I served as a member of the liaison committee, which participated in the development of its practices. Justice Patricia Wallace and I co-chaired an inaugural ADR Conference held in 1990, at which the leading family mediators of that time, including Barbara Landau and Judith Ryan, participated. At the outset of this historic event, Attorney General Ian Scott announced the expansion of the mediation service of the Unified Family Court from parenting alone to comprehensive.

In 1993, I embarked upon what became an ambitious program of continuing education, which continues to this day. Disillusioned with the adversarial approach to family law practice, I took a voluntary leave of absence for a period not to exceed one year. I enrolled in the Certificate in Dispute Resolution program at the Pepperdine University School of Law, which I completed in 1994. Thereafter, I obtained a Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution from Antioch University in 1996 and a Master of Laws in ADR degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University in 1998.

I began my ADR practice in 1994 with family dispute resolution as the primary area of focus. Initially, my work as an ADR practitioner was almost exclusively as a mediator. While I did conduct a few arbitrations, this part of my practice only began to develop for me in 2007 following the amendments to family arbitration law. In 2000, I learned of the Collaborative Law alternative to conventional law practice when I attended a training workshop in London, Ontario. Together with Judith Ryan and Victoria Smith, we co-developed the first Collaborative Law training workshop for Ontario practitioners and we co-authored Collaborative Family Law: Another Way to Resolve Family Disputes, published by Thomson Carswell in 2003. At or about this time, I began to identify myself as a Family Dispute Resolution or FDR professional.

I participated in the pilot project team that developed the Family Mediation Canada certification program and I was their first Certifying Administrator. I am a past president of the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. I was a co-founder of the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario. As a collaborative lawyer, I assisted in creating the Hamilton-Halton Collaborative Family Practice Group; I joined the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals; and I participated in the establishment of the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation. Over time, I received the professional designations offered by all these organizations.

I have been and continue to be an educator and trainer in all areas of my practice. I taught Family Law in the Bar Admission Course of the Law Society of Ontario and participated in the continuing education programs of the Law Society of Ontario and the Ontario Bar Association. I served as an adjunct faculty member in the ADR programs of McMaster University, the University of Guelph, and York University. I developed and for many years taught negotiation and mediation in the Certificate in Dispute Resolution program and family mediation and family law in the Certificate in Family Mediation program both offered at York University. I continue to provide private training workshops in family mediation and family arbitration.

As I became more involved in education and training, I sought out formal education as an adult educator and trainer. In 2000, I began the Diploma in Adult Education program of St. Francis Xavier University, which I completed in 2003. I entered a doctoral degree program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto in 2001. Collaborative Law training was the subject of my thesis research. In 2007, I received my Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Education. A synopsis of my thesis is available in an article entitled, On Becoming a Collaborative Professional: From Paradigm Shifting to Transformative Learning Through Critical Reflection and Dialogue, published in the 2008 Journal of Dispute Resolution.

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