When I was a young associate at a law firm, one of my mentors encouraged me to start looking for opportunities to teach at continuing legal education seminars. When I asked him whether he thought I had the requisite expertise to instruct others on the law, he wisely told me that one of the best ways to become truly expert in something is to prepare to teach it to others.
As I began to prepare the syllabus for a course on mediation that I am teaching in the spring at a local law school, I remembered my colleague’s advice and realized again how accurate it is as I looked at the list of materials I want to reread or examine before I enter the classroom in January. The resources available today are staggering. My latest Amazon search for “mediation” yielded over 17,000 results, though Amazon also has a problem separating mediation from meditation. (For more on that, see my July 2016 blog post, Mediation? Do You Mean Meditation?).
After sifting through the list of materials to which I want to expose my students, I realized that perhaps I needed to get away from theory and head back into the realm of the practical. After all, what do second and third year law students need to learn about mediation, and how can they learn it most effectively? How will they be using mediation in their practices? How can I help them transfer knowledge from the classroom to the conference room? How can I assist them in seeing the benefits that dispute resolution techniques can bring to any situation, whether emergent or full-blown?
I have settled on three primary questions I would like my students to be able to answer at the end of the semester. First, what does mediation look like? Second, how do I prepare for mediation? Finally, how do I help the parties in dispute get the most of the mediation experience. If you have participated in more than one mediation, you know that the answers to these questions vary from situation to situation, but that common themes and techniques help to answer each of these questions in almost every situation.
If you had to answer each of those questions, what would you say? If you were asked what themes and techniques have been common to your mediations, what would be your response? I’d love to hear from you as I continue to prepare for the coming semester.