How many of us in the mediation field have said that educating people about alternative approaches to dispute resolution is essential to changing the way that conflicts are addressed? For those of us who work in court ADR, the continuing development of law school ADR coursework in particular is a cause for optimism that the practice of law increasingly will encompass skilled use of ADR.
In a recent pro bono case I mediated, I had an experience that affirmed this belief. The defendants were represented by a skilled, young volunteer lawyer who was an able advocate for his client in mediation. He asked good questions of the other side, was dogged but gracious in pursuing his clients’ interests, and took a constructive, problem-solving approach. After the mediation, he asked opposing counsel and me about how this case relates to others of this type, as this had been his first one in this area. He said that he had taken a mediation course in law school and had mediated actual court cases through the clinic, so he felt prepared for the process, but wanted to learn more about this particular application.
Isn’t this what we have been hoping would happen? Law school mediation training is preparing strong, capable advocates in mediation.
This experience says a lot about the value of clinical education, too, where students not only learn about the values behind ADR, but actual practice the skills in real, significant ways.