I co-created the Mediation Clinic at California Western School of Law (hereafter CWSL) with my colleague Linda Morton in 1996 to provide students the opportunity to learn the process of mediation and to mediate live disputes in the community. We recognized the importance of “soft skills” such as communication, collaboration, initiative, and adaptability and therefore we sought to create an experiential learning opportunity for the students that encouraged them to nurture those skills. We wanted to teach students conflict resolution skills and to have them work together to use those skills to help individuals in the community resolve actual disputes. Simultaneously, we sought to expose the students to an under served population with whom most of them were not acquainted (incarcerated juvenile offenders) and to show them the value of helping others resolve their disputes peacefully, in a non-adversarial way. Moreover, we sought to teach the students that their new role as mediator required them to act professionally and ethically.
After teaching the class for approximately 15 years I became curious about what our students were doing. I was interested in learning whether they were practicing law and whether they were serving as mediators. I wanted to ascertain whether they were getting paid to mediate or whether they were mediating pro bono. This curiosity led to other areas of inquiry, such as determining the type of mediations the graduates were doing and the frequency of those mediations. Moreover I also wanted to know if they were using the communication skills we had taught them in the Mediation Clinic in their mediations, in their professional and personal lives.
This article, The Parts Are Greater Than The Sum, is the description and analysis of what I learned from the survey I sent to the graduates of the Mediation Clinic. Fortunately I received a very high response rate -- over 50% of those who received the survey responded to it.
I found the responses illuminating. I have learned that although the students were interested in mediation, this was not their initial motivation for participating in the clinic. Only a small percent of the graduates were mediating. Nonetheless, the graduates appreciate and use many of the communication skills they learned in the clinic in their professional and personal lives. Due to what I have learned from the graduates’ responses to the survey, I have changed the way I teach the class. I now place more emphasis on the discrete skills used in mediation, rather than on the entire process of mediation.
I believe that others who teach mediation can also benefit from the data I accumulated and analyzed. I am sharing this data through this article so that others may learn something about their programs and may re-consider their program’s goals and outcomes.
Volume 30 Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, No. 3, 2015