Aspiring litigators learn early on that it is their duty to zealously advocate for their clients, regardless of whether their clients’ particular aims seem likely to engender more harmony in the universe. Practice Professor Douglas Frenkel who teaches the Mediation Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School with adjunct professor Michele Goldfarb and lecturer Sharon Eckstein believes it is just as important for law students to learn the art of “perspective-taking,” the ability to understand a situation from multiple points of view.
“While all lawyers would benefit from developing this aptitude,” says Frenkel, “it is one often lacking in lawyers whose thinking is easily skewed by having partisan loyalties, advocacy goals, and ethical duties.”
Mediation Clinic students learn to exercise unbiased lawyering judgment by facilitating real mediation sessions which, like other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), are becoming prevalent in situations where litigation might be seen as unaffordable, inefficient, or simply inappropriate.
“In the Mediation Clinic, we worked on skills that will help us in practice and in life,” says clinic alum Casey Stewart. “We focused on active listening and other ways to delve beneath the surface of what parties say they want to help uncover what they actually want out of a dispute.”
By making manifest the unstated emotional, cultural, or values-based underpinnings of a dispute, skilled mediators can help clients resolve issues that may matter more to them than their legal entitlements.
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