You’ve seen us at the conferences, heard us on the calls and felt the buzz of our enthusiasm. We are the new generation of law grads and we figured out early that mediation was the way to go and litigation was best left to the fighters.
I personally felt the pull towards mediation during my 1L year. The who-gets-to-sue-who exams were fun brain puzzles but as I analyzed the problems I saw dimensions of constructive solutions far beyond what was called for in the standard answer. If the widgets weren’t delivered on time, how could A make it up to B to enhance the relationship rather than destroy it? If neighbor X’s new fence encroached one extra foot onto Y’s farm, why couldn’t they just sit down and talk about an arrangement that could work for them both rather than destroy a decades-old friendship?
As expanding the pie has always been my personal life philosophy, it became clear quite early on that I was destined for a career in mediation. There are simply those of us who feel an instinctive inclination for peacemaking and peacebuilding—our guts tell us this without much conscious consideration. We seek the positive, and our hearts and minds wrap much more easily around thoughtful dialogue and problem solving than adversarial zero-sum games.
Historically, the mediation profession has been dominated by lawyers who came to this realization much later in life—after years of litigation practice. We, of the new generation, are quickly changing the landscape.
After we graduate from law school, we are already equipped—as never before—to join the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) world. We have clinics and courses to teach us the ins and outs of mediation and negotiation—how to do it, how to use our legal skills (honing in on relevant information and heavy duty analysis) to make us great, and most importantly, why to do it. Law schools have increased their emphasis and training in this arena and are graduating more students with the finely tuned skills and clinical experience to jump right in to this line of work.
As we witness the profession evolve from one dominated by past litigators to new younger, but highly skilled, lawyers, we have to figure out how to identify ourselves and validate our space here in the profession. We are lawyers—but we’re really branding ourselves as professional mediators. We don’t fit the old litigator-turned-mediator mold—the recent ABA Section of Dispute Resolution in San Francisco made that perfectly clear to me. We are young—but we are smart, well-trained and more than adequately prepared. We are changing the face of what it looks like to be a lawyer-mediator and we are ready for a warm welcome from the mediation community.
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