Mediation Tournament a Great Learning Experience

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Category: Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Mediation
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Two weeks ago I had to opportunity to compete in a mediation tournament. This tournament involved three rounds where each student rotated from round to round playing an attorney, a client, and a mediator. Being a participant and working with my fellow teammates has increased my understanding and skills as an attorney and a mediator.   In preparation for the tournament each of the competitors underwent a training session on effective mediation. Not only were we there to represent our schools in competition, but the session before the tournament provided us with an additional teaching element.

Round One: Attorney in a landlord-tenant action My client was involved in eviction proceedings against an intimidating ex-hockey player who refused to pay rent.  

I prepared relevant law to argue my case against the opposing team. They were not in a facilitative frame of mind and so instead of letting the landlord and tenant figure it out, I spent most of the time debating the law with the opposing attorney. This was real-world practice as I got to put theory to action and play an attorney. I also got experience interacting and representing my client.

Round Two: Client in a divorce. This was the most trying round of the competition. I played a client who was initiating a divorce against her spouse. There was no love in this round. As the client I felt frustrated and angry; the other side refused to even try to come to an agreement. The mediators assigned to the round did a poor job of moderating the outbursts and at the end, I was left with several options for asset division and the other side had tossed them on the floor. I have to say my partner Jesse played the role of attorney superbly and managed to calm me down several times. Even though this was a made-up scenario, I became emotionally involved in the client and was able to experience some of the emotions a client would feel in a similar situation. Jesse demonstrated that he could both calm me down and advocate my interests in a positive and cooperative way. At the end of the round, I felt much more comfortable with having Jesse as my attorney than if I had the opposing team’s attorney. This is because Jesse was attuned to my needs as a client, but he was able to be cooperative and civil to the other side. The opposing attorney on the other hand . . . well, I will just say it was an example of how not to act in the future.

Round Three: Mediator in a product liability case. This round got tricky. Instead of being the client or attorney, I was to co-mediate the proceedings with a fellow competitor. I had to be cooperative and fair while at the same time trying to look better and get the win at the end of the round. Derrick (my co-mediator) was a competitor with whom I had to work out distribution of time and allocation of responsibilities. We had two very strong and aggressive personalities plopped in a competition setting and were asked to work together to solve a dispute. Amazingly, we worked very well with one another. As I worked with Derrick, I was exposed to differences in approaches in problem solving and was able to improve my skills as a mediator.

The competition was a success. We did not make the final round, but the competition gave me valuable experience as a mediator and attorney.  I would highly recommend participating in either a mediation or negotiation event sponsored by Client Skills Board at Marquette University. March 26 is the yearly negotiation intramural in which any student can participate. If you would like more information about Client Skills Board or wish to participate in an upcoming event, please email President Olga Kordonskaya at Olgakordonskaya@gmail.com or Vice President of Competitions Andi Thompson at Andi.l.tompson@gmail.com.

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One Response to “Mediation Tournament a Great Learning Experience”

  1. Being an alumnus and a judge for this competition, I want to add that it was a very well-organized event. The teams with which I interacted were prepared and showed the type of collaborative spirit that makes for successful mediation. Even with the spirit of compromise in the air, the student-attorney on each time carefully advocated for the client while exploring options for resolution. The skill level of the teams I judged was impressive. As a practicing attorney, I can say unreservedly that the skills acquired in the alternative resolution program at Marquette Law School are extremely practical. More and more courts are ordering alternative dispute resolution in civil cases. Training new attorneys who understand how to creatively fashion a resolution can only help all parties in the litigation process, and lessen the posturing by counsel that can be a roadblock to settlement.

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