ADR Systems’ Women’s Initiative Committee Champions the Insights of Women Attorneys at Recent Roundtable Discussion and Luncheon - ADR Systems

ADR Systems


It’s time for more women mediators and arbitrators: We made that declaration two years ago in the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois’ 2022 Spring Newsletter. Since then, the number of women mediators and arbitrators on our panel has doubled. Ten women—Hon. Helaine L. Berger, (Ret.), Hon. Margaret A. Brennan, (Ret.), Hon. Janet Adams Brosnahan, (Ret.), Hon. Elizabeth M. Budzinski, (Ret.), Hon. Lisa R. Curcio, (Ret.), Hon. Kay M. Hanlon, (Ret.), Hon. Brigid M. McGrath, (Ret.), Hon. Lorna E. Propes, (Ret.), and Hon. Marguerite A. Quinn, (Ret.)—are all former Circuit Court of Cook County judges and are in-demand, much-admired neutrals at ADR Systems.

Their busy ADR practices often limit opportunities for them to gather together, but their collective commitment to the mission of ADR Systems’ Women’s Initiative—to cultivate forums in which women attorneys can speak their minds and their truths about the demands, thrills and challenges of legal practice—make these  events not only possible but worthwhile.

At their most recent event, a Roundtable Discussion and Luncheon at Roanoke Restaurant, the women of ADR Systems pooled together women attorneys practicing law in various personal injury, commercial and family law subject areas on both sides of the bar. There, they conversed about strategy going into mediation, preferences in mediator style, how they select a mediator, the merits of in-person and remote proceedings and the underappreciated utility of ex parte pre-mediation sessions.

“Mediation is the more effective, more efficient, more amicable path to resolution,” said Mary Nelson, senior vice president of ADR Systems’ Personal Injury Division. “These conversations at the Roundtable Discussion highlighted how many decisions and considerations lead up to the day of mediation and how important mediation is to the lives of those whom our clients are representing.”

The significance that these events are comprised entirely of women is not underappreciated either.

“The legal profession has more women attorneys than ever. Numerous law schools have majority-women student bodies. Five of Chicago’s six law school deans are women,” said Meghann Smith, executive director of ADR Systems’ Commercial & Family Law Division. “This is an exciting time, yet many challenges persist. Gender disparity at the partner level and within the federal judiciary to name two. It reenforces in my mind the maxim at the heart of our Women’s Initiative: That behind every successful woman are many women who have her back.”


Hon. Helaine L. Berger, (Ret.) is an experienced civil litigator who tried cases in Criminal, Chancery, Law and Domestic Relations before serving as a judge in Cook County’s Domestic Relations Division for 19 years. Judge Berger has been active in the legal community, including  President of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. She is  a senior mediator and arbitrator at ADR Systems, concentrating in family law. Judge Berger is flexible and creative in her approach to mediation and has helped ADR Systems launch an innovative fast track mediation program for family law cases.

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Hon. Margaret A. Brennan, (Ret.) served for 19 years in the Circuit Court of Cook County Chancery and Law Divisions and cultivated expansive knowledge of commercial cases such as employment matters involving discrimination and retaliatory discharge, construction and legal malpractice disputes. Colleagues commend Judge Brennan’s intelligence, persuasiveness, remarkable patience, careful case preparation and boundless energy, which contribute significantly to her success as a senior mediator and arbitrator.

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Hon. Janet Adams Brosnahan, (Ret.) served 21 years in the Circuit Court of Cook County. She has expertise in settling a variety of disputes, particularly those relating to medical negligence, toxic tort and product liability issues. Judge Brosnahan also has extensive experience in labor, employment and contract matters. Her warmth and in-depth knowledge make her a well-respected and sought-after neutral.

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Hon. Elizabeth M. Budzinski, (Ret.) was a hard-working, meticulous and highly sought-after trial judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County for 20 years before joining ADR Systems as a senior mediator and arbitrator.  She is skilled at bringing even the most recalcitrant parties to a resolution of their dispute. Attorneys who have settled cases with Judge Budzinski describe her as diligent, fair and someone who can keep the parties talking.

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Hon. Lisa R. Curcio, (Ret.) brings an abundance of real-world experience — real estate, business and banking — to her mediation and arbitration practice. Of over 15 years on the bench, she spent 11 in the Chancery Division where she presided over claims for mechanics liens and all aspects of claims under construction contracts. Before she went on the bench, Judge Curcio represented parties in medical malpractice, premises and product liability and other personal injury matters.  Judge Curcio is regarded as an energetic and pragmatic neutral who helps parties construct suitable solutions to their disputes.

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Hon. Kay M. Hanlon, (Ret.) has expertise in resolving personal injury actions such as medical malpractice, mass torts and product liability, as well as commercial actions such as legal malpractice, eminent domain and subrogation. As a jurist and neutral, Judge Hanlon is always prepared and ready to listen attentively. Her open and friendly demeanor is known throughout the legal community. Her personality is tailor-made for her work as a mediator and arbitrator.

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Hon. Brigid M. McGrath, (Ret.) has handled complex commercial and personal injury case types throughout her 34-year legal and judicial career, including professional malpractice, medical malpractice, insurance coverage and product liability matters. As a senior mediator and arbitrator, she is skilled at diffusing conflict and identifying root causes of disputes. Counsel know Judge McGrath will prepare thoroughly for every case and work diligently toward resolution.

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Hon. Lorna E. Propes, (Ret.) brings 32 years of experience as a civil trial lawyer and 12 as a trial judge to her role as a senior mediator and arbitrator. On the bench, she presided over medical negligence, personal injury, product liability, mass torts, aviation disaster, contract and FELA disputes at trial and in settlement conferences. Her goal with every case is to help litigants see the case from a realistic perspective and urge them to appreciate how compromise is not concession but a path to achieving their goals.

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Hon. Marguerite A. Quinn, (Ret) brings 38 years of legal experience to her role as a senior mediator and arbitrator. On the bench she presided over both commercial and personal injury cases, including one of the largest toxic tort cases in Cook County. She values patience when working with parties to resolve disputes and urges everyone involved in her mediations to intentionally listen to each other.

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ADR Systems, It’s Settled. ®

Judge Burke mediated a settlement in a matter where the parties were extremely far apart, with almost no common ground.  He pushed both sides to rethink their positions, outlined a post-conference approach and made himself available on short notice.  I do not believe anyone else could have settled the matter.  He will be my first choice for future mediations.

Lisa M. Lilly, Esq.Lisa M. Lilly Law