Mock Mediation Invitational Returns Oct. 9-10
One of the South’s largest conflict resolution competitions returns next week as Brenau University hosts its 13th annual Invitational Mock Mediation Tournament Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10.
Seven institutions from Georgia, Texas, Ohio and Tennessee have registered for the Brenau event, which is regarded as a crucial warm-up run for the international mock mediation competition in November.
Brenau tournament competitors this year include Bowling Green State University from Bowling Green, Ohio, Middle Tennessee State from Murfreesboro and the University of Texas, Dallas. Georgia participants will be Clayton State College, Georgia Southern University and Middle Georgia State University. One pre-registered international team, India’s National Law Institute University, had to withdraw from the competition because of visa issues.
Dr. Ken Frank, the director of Brenau’s Conflict Resolution and Legal Studies program, said that the tournament comprises competitive events, which he conceded runs against the grain of the alternative dispute resolution discipline in which parties talk their way through conflicts for mutual satisfaction instead of battling it out in a courtroom to determine which side wins.
“With mock trials, you are always trying to one-up each other,” he said. “In mediation, you are trying to work towards a solution to a problem.”
However, judges in the tournaments award points on how well members of various teams work toward collaboration instead of whether they beat their opponents.
Ellie Anglin, a senior conflict resolution and legal studies major from Clermont, Georgia, has participated in mediation competitions for the last two years. She said the tournaments have helped her step outside her comfort zone and become a better mediator and advocate, inside and outside of the faux courtroom.
“Mediation isn’t just for the legal system or just for legal studies majors, it can be used in different situations with different people,” she said. “I learn new things and tips with every competition I attend, whether I am participating or not, and it has helped me reduce some disputes in my life by practicing what I have learned.”
The competition is broken up into rounds, with six student competitors from four different schools taking on the roles of co-mediators, advocates and clients. Judges – who may be professionally trained mediators, local attorneys or even state court judges – then score the students as they walk through scenarios inspired by real-world cases, ranging from quarrels over plagiarized papers and pet ownership to disputes surrounding age discrimination and even wrongful deaths.
Nicole Woolfork Hull, an adjunct professor at Brenau who practices law in Athens, Georgia, and her husband Kamau Hull, who is also a lawyer, will provide mediation training seminars from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. The sessions, Hull said, centers on ethics and Georgia’s professional mediator requirements. As an attorney primarily dealing with family law cases, she said she knows all too well how lawsuit-happy some individuals can be. The appeal of mediation, she said, is that it provides parties a chance to peaceably resolve their own disputes and walk away with a greater understanding of the other side’s needs.
With more and more judges ordering parties to seek mediation before taking matters to the courtroom, Hull said alternative dispute resolution is a necessity for all students seeking careers in legal fields.
“Conflict is inevitable,” Hull said. “People are going to have to learn how to reach resolutions in positive ways.” The Brenau undergraduate program, she added, is among the leaders in the nation in developing an academic discipline that should be universally available in colleges and universities.
The mediation invitational, she said, is a fantastic way for tomorrow’s attorneys to hone not only their conflict resolution skills, but develop a deeper understanding of how a myriad of personal interests and perspectives shape legal situations and outcomes. “Among my clients, it has cut down lawsuits and some of the more extreme demands looking to hurt the other party,” she said, “and it has made me a better advocate for them.”
Registration for the invitational is noon to 1 p.m. at the Thurmond-McRae Lecture Hall, 625 Academy St., on Friday, Oct. 9. The first round of competition is from 4 to 5:45 p.m., while the second round is scheduled from 7:30 to 9:15 p.m. The breakout sessions will take place at various sites at the historic Gainesville campus, including the Owens Student Center, 102 Prior St., and the Academy Building at 620 Academy St.
The third and final round is from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10. The competition wraps up with a Thurmond McRae Lecture Hall awards luncheon at noon, with closing comments scheduled at 1:30 p.m.
All student competitions are free and open to the public.
Brenau hosted last year’s International Intercollegiate Mediation Tournament, which is oft-considered the world’s premiere collegiate dispute resolution competition. This year’s event, which will also feature student representatives from Brenau, takes place Nov. 11-14 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Frank, also the U.S. vice president of the International Academy of Dispute Resolution, said he has encountered many moving experiences over the years. While in Dubai he watched Emirati, English and Indian mediators work together, and at the height of the Crimean Crisis in 2014, he witnessed Ukrainian and Russian students break bread at a law school barbecue.
“Watching that humanity and that sameness of the students throughout the world was a really significant moment,” he said. “It was such a better vision for our future than the vision you see when our leaders are all fighting with each other.”
While Frank considers “competitive mediation” to be something of a humorous contradiction, he also said there is no denying the tournament’s impact on students. Beyond preparing participants for professional careers, he also said the life skills they learn from the events are equally important in routine workplace and family interactions.
Then there’s the prospect of that commitment to peaceful, mutually-agreeable solutions crossing over into other aspects of everyday life.
“One of our hopes,” he said, “is that if we can train the next generation of students to resolve conflicts in a better way than my generation has, the world will be a much better place.”