Chicago is not windy at all this time of year. We get there late at night, having entered yet another time zone, and it is still warm and humid when we reach our hotel, The Essex Inn, which has seen better days, but is located conveniently in the center of the city.
An integral part of our stay here are our meetings with Brian Clauss of the John Marshall Law School. Together with Kristina Taylor of the Chicago Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), Brian was so kind to give me the opportunity to hold a morning lecture at the law school and has done and does everything to make our stay in Chicago as nice as possible and worthwhile to remember.
After we have a late breakfast at the Gage on Michigan Avenue the next day, we head further into the city and hop on a water taxi to explore Chicago on the river which I have always found to be the best way to familiarize yourself with the place. As opposed to the various cruise lines, the water taxi is much smaller and somewhat more of a down to earth and less touristy experience, and most importantly, much cheaper.
In the early evening, we meet Brian for a lovely dinner at the Park Grill in Millennium Park. He has brought our kids two little Chicago Cubs caps as a gift which they wear ever since, and we enjoy in depth conversations with our very kind and welcoming host on his and on our family history and the status quo of America while the twins splash out at the two fountains, drenched to the bone.
The next morning, I get up early as the lecture starts at 9:00 am and I want to meet with Brian a little ahead of time. He shows me around the Veterans Legal Support Center and Clinic which he runs at the law school while the first participants come trickling in. The topic of my presentation is the capacity of arbitrators and judges to facilitate settlement negotiations between the disputants, a typically German feature, which entails a lively Q&A discussion. What seems to be of most concern is whether the impartiality and independence of the arbitrator and judge is jeopardized as he or she plays two roles: That of a potential decision maker under law and possibly equity coupled with the role of a conciliator in which he may receive information from the parties that he may not in a controversial judicial proceeding.
I hope that I was able to lay out why at least within the frames of the German approach, these two roles do not exclude one another, especially if the disputants are clearly informed and involved at all stages of the proceedings. I continue to discuss and exchange ideas with individual participants after the lecture, before Brian takes me back to my hotel in his car. We part as friends and I have the feeling that this is the beginning of wonderful new transatlantic relationship full of mutual appreciation. Dear Brian, you have been a lovely host, and we look forward to keeping in touch!
I meet my three favorites at a lively little breakfast place, before we take off to the next episode on our journey in Traverse City in the North of Michigan, where I will reunite after over a decade with the family that hosted me as an exchange student 25 years ago. And so we leave Chicago, full of gratitude and joyful anticipation.