Class Recommendation: Mediation

I wanted to try something new and write about a class I’m taking this semester that I’d recommend to anyone in law school, regardless of interests or concentration area: Mediation. I met with an attorney-turned-academic last spring to learn more about her path, and when I asked what general courses I should take in either 2L or 3L, she recommended mediation as a course that is helpful not only in the practice of law, but in life more generally. As everyone who knows me or reads my blog posts can probably surmise at this point: I view the learning that takes place outside the classroom as important (if not more so) as the learning that takes place inside the classroom. Therefore, when she said it would be helpful both academically and personally, I was hooked and knew I wanted to take it as a 2L.

The Mediation course at BU is pretty small (I think that there are about 12 students in our class total), which is great on many levels – the first of which being that its ideal for all of the role play exercises that we do in class. We are typically assigned to either be a party, attorney, or mediator prior to class and are sent facts of the dispute at issue so that we can prepare. Then, we break into smaller groups and take on the roles of whichever person we are assigned in the dispute, and attempt to reach a settlement. To be totally honest, I was not comfortable at all during the Lawyering Lab when we had to take on role playing and I volunteered to either take notes, redline our contract, or do anything else that involved not directly negotiating. However, this class has forced me to take the reigns when I have either been assigned the attorney or mediator in any given case. It’s been the best thing for me, proving yet again the value of stepping outside of your comfort zone (a lesson I will likely learn and relearn until the end of time).

Another thing that I love about the class is its overlap with psychology.  A lot of the exercises involve learning how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and really hear what they are saying to you. In life in general this can be challenging enough, but when emotions and money are involved in the types of disputes that typically lead to mediation, the stakes are much higher and parties are all the more willing to dig their heels into what they feel they deserve (and thus are all the less likely to be willing to listen to the other side’s story). The practice of active listening has been stressed in class, as has taking time to try to distill what the other party is truly seeking in the dispute (it may seem like a dollar amount at first, but could boil down to an apology or a healing on an emotional level).

I think that in our society in general (and in law school specifically), it can be really easy to always think you’re right. I myself have said the phrase “I’m always right,” more frequently than I’d care to admit. The beautiful thing about mediation is that it teaches you the value of what can happen when each party steps back and truly hears the other side out and listens to their wants and needs. It is only then that the most constructive and mutually beneficial solution can be reached. Needless to say I would highly recommend this class for any 2Ls and 3Ls because its applicability is just as strong in the school of law as it is in the school of life.

One Comment

Caroline Ming posted on July 3, 2018 at 1:06 am

Dear Laura and all,
Congratulations on your note and reflections. I fully concur and confirm the advice. When I took this fantastic ADR class with Eric Green at BU in 2003-2004, we were about 60 students! It changed my perceptions and opened my eyes. But beware: It is also there that I met my now wonderful husband and father of my 2 lovely boys. Enjoy your studies,
Caroline, LLM BU 04

Post a Comment

Your email address is never shared. Required fields are marked *