The Bright Future of Mediation.
With the permission of counsel and the parties, two third year law students observed a court-connected mediation I conducted last week.
They, and those like them, are the bright future of mediation.
They are pleasant, articulate, savvy, hopeful and certainly good company. Their presence in the mediation helped in many ways:
For me, personally, it made the experience more valuable, as I like to share what I know and also to get feedback from others.
For all of the professionals, their presence inspired them/me to do a better job.
For all of the participants, their presence in the room added to the collegiality among us and to the friendliness of the litigants who were, I think, on their best behavior because they were there.
With the permission of all sides, I frequently checked-in privately with the two observers, for their perceptions as to what had occurred and what they thought might occur. I could tell that their mediation training in law school served them well; they saw the many legal and human issues at hand; more importantly, they understood the nuances of the mediation, how the conversation went, why certain things were said at a certain time, and the impact it had on the litigants.
They could see that the parties who began at odds with each other moved toward a common goal of settlement. They understood the parties’ emotional transitions and their recognition that settling was better for both sides than not settling.
When the court’s settlement agreement form came out of my briefcase, was completed by the attorneys, and was signed by the litigants, I could see the students loosen up and I could read their happiness on their faces.
Like the parties who themselves were relieved with the outcome, the students’ tension had lessened as well – because they, like I, knew the fragility of the moment and they were rooting for closure, which the parties reached with wise counsel and their own self-determination.
Of course, the students’ observation of the mediation was for their education, but it helped all who participated to see a brighter future.