Future Lawyers in Mediation

I had the privilege of being one of the judges of the International Law School Mediation Tournament in Ann Arbor this weekend, and it gave me great hope for the next generation of lawyers. Teams of law students from eleven law schools in the U.S. and Canada participated in three rounds of mock mediations, playing the roles of attorneys, clients and co-mediators. They followed an interest-based model of mediation, looking for win/win resolutions. They played smart, savvy lawyers who recognized that things in addition to money were driving the litigation—e.g., protecting a reputation, wanting an apology, maintaining racial dignity—so that the outcome needed to include these things along with financial remuneration. They played skilled, neutral, impartial mediators who drew out underlying interests and facilitated negotiated resolutions. After each round was finished, the students offered insightful self-evaluations of their performance, and then opened themselves up to critique from the two judges who observed their mock mediation. The students were very receptive to our feedback, which made it rewarding for us judges. It’s encouraging to know that law students are learning how to be wise advocates in mediation, as well as how to be interest-based mediators, as part of their legal education. It bodes well for the future of the legal profession.