Experiences & Impact from CPR’s 2019 International Mediation Competition

By Ibrahim Godofa (A member of the University of Nairobi Team)

The 2019 CPR International Mediation Competition has definitely been one of the key opportunities that I have been lucky enough to participate in this year and arguably for the entirety of my law school period. I believe it was an incredible opportunity for my teammates as well.

My attention was first drawn to this competition on LinkedIn where the poster was shared by Mr. Olivier André from the CPR Institute. I immediately shared the information with like-minded colleagues at the university and a team was formed, whereupon we applied for participation as well as a partial scholarship that had just been instituted to aid disadvantaged teams. Upon assessment, we were selected alongside 17 other teams from across the globe as the only team from the African continent. Additionally, we were granted the partial scholarship to participate!

“The role all of these takeaways will play in enhancing the position of mediation in Kenya, especially among our fellow students, cannot be underestimated.”

The competition period that took place between the 4th and 6th of April in São Paulo, Brazil was probably the most intensive and beneficial learning opportunity throughout the process. Coming from a jurisdiction where mediation is still a progress in motion, the first evening of the training session, featuring short lectures about the various emerging aspects of mediation, was an incredible way to start a learning curve that would last for the following two days. It was quite an eye-opening kick-off and equally interesting to be introduced to emerging technologies as well as business aspects, such as agricultural ones, in the practice of mediation. While this training session served as an effective way to expand the participants’ views on the evolving practice of mediation, we also found it to be a helpful approach to preparing for the actual competition, whose themes revolved around these emerging aspects.

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The Nairobi team, receiving their award for best teamwork. The author, Ibrahim Godofa, is pictured on the right, along with his teammates Edgar Usagi Alema (left) and Sumaiyah Abdi Omar (center).

The first day of the competition provided many different kinds of lessons, as my team and I got the chance to go up against excellent teams from world class universities all around the world. My team had the rare chance to go up against teams from three different continents: South America, Asia and North America on this first day. It was quite an awesome experience trying out our preparation against teams that had different approaches and internal qualification processes to get to this stage of the competition, and some of which even had coaches, unlike my team. It was also an interesting experience to compete in the style in which the competition was set up—which was new to me, and (as I learned from speaking to them) to several of the other participants as well.

Additionally, as a team we had always known mediation to be a conflict resolution process that is not bent towards a win-lose outcome. While retaining the important values of a mediation, this competition allowed us to simultaneously act upon the rush of competitiveness coming from all the teams while maintaining a respectful and professional sportsmanship, which was one of the highlights of this phase of the competition observable from all the teams present.

The first day of the competition culminated quite memorably for us, with an announcement that our negotiating team was through to the quarter finals the following day. Being part of our negotiating team, this presented serious excitement for me and also meant continued work within the limited time we had to prepare for the quarter finals round. The quality of the competition in this round was even a notch higher than the previous day’s, and so were the stakes. However, my team would learn later in the day that our impressive run would end at this round, albeit against a worthy opponent, the Harvard Law School team.

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The team from the University of Nairobi, School of Law, taking a well-deserved break

Outside the competition rooms, there was an extended opportunity to interact and network with current and future voices in global mediation. This ranged from top-of-their-class students from the various participating universities as well as other professionals who were present in different capacities as judges, coaches and other volunteers. Interacting with these individuals and exchanging contacts provided an invaluable door to long-lasting partnerships and collaborations that are particularly priceless coming from a jurisdiction such as ours, where borrowing from global best practices brings a special kind of difference in an under-developed field such as mediation.

At the end of the competition, my team was recognized with the “Best Teamwork” Award, upon the completion and compilation of feedback from the excellent judging panels that we came across in the various rounds. This feedback from the judges, which continued to come to our attention even after the competition was long finished, has been a very important part of the competition’s learning process and my team is incredibly proud to have emerged with an award testament to the positive and constructive feedback that the judges had on our performance.

One of the main attractions of this competition to our team lay in the impact that the experience would have on mediation back in our circles at home, both in general and at our school in particular. The lessons taken home by our team from this experience are numerous. Some of the key takeaways from the wholesome experience of the competition include:

  • Best practices from other universities as far as student activities centered around mediation is concerned in their schools, especially for the universities from the United States
  • Valuable feedback from the judging panel, some of which contain long-term lessons for our future practices
  • And, most importantly, a model mediation practice procedure that can be employed to sharpen the skills of eager students back at our school through student-led trainings

It is important to also note that our team’s participation in this edition of the competition was the first of its kind at our school as far as any international Alternative Dispute Resolution competitions are concerned. Our participation has therefore paved way for other students to look for and take up similar opportunities, and to benefit from the connections that our team acquired internationally which can be leveraged to create a ripple of opportunities to others who will come after us. The role all of these takeaways will play in enhancing the position of mediation in Kenya, especially among our fellow students, cannot be underestimated. With all signs indicating the rise of mediation practice around the world, we are certainly committed to advancing this important dispute resolution resource within our immediate circle of friends and fellow students, starting from our school. And a big thank you goes to the CPR Institute for the invaluable role that it continues to play in driving a global mediation culture.

Our team’s appreciations go to Olivier André, the amazing Chris Silva and Franco Gevaerd from the CPR Institute, all of whom played a key role in making our experience of this competition, alongside their other colleagues, so memorable.

And oh! Brazil was an awesome place and the Paulistas were very friendly and welcoming residents of a great city! We had a wonderful time.

 

CPR, LCLD & FINRA Program Aims for Actual Selection, Not Just Training, of Diverse Neutrals

CPR’s Diversity Task Force, in collaboration with Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), have been hard at work on a program that aims not only to train diverse candidates to become mediators and arbitrators, but provides meaningful opportunities to position participants to ultimately become selected as neutrals—the only thing that will ultimately have an impact on diversity in ADR.

As Noah Hanft, CPR’s President & CEO, has stated, “Diverse neutrals need experience to show quality, build their reputations and earn their selections—but, in order to gain that all important experience and develop their skills, they first need to get selected. The riddle is circular but not impossible to solve, and those who prevent, or at least fail to support, the latter cannot in good conscious unequivocally demand the former. We can, and must, do better. This next generation of talented individuals is poised to make a real difference, if we will only recognize our roles and do our part.”

The program, which launched last year in a pilot phase, provides participants with early skills development and unique access to professional development opportunities in dispute resolution through: (a) formal training in mediation and arbitration skills and practical observational experience; (b) mentoring by skilled neutrals; and (c) networking opportunities within CPR’s commercial dispute resolution community via attendance at these organization’s events at no cost or at a discount. Last year’s program produced six neutrals, and this year we have five participating—a wonderfully diverse and talented group hailing from New Jersey, Chicago, Houston, Miami and Atlanta.

joehanna.jpgAccording to Joseph M Hanna (pictured left), a Partner at Goldberg Segalla and a participant in last year’s program, “Even if you’re not engaged in arbitration or mediation, you will use the techniques and the ‘soft processes’ that you pick up during this training and from your mentors every day—whether you are practicing law, litigating cases, working with colleagues, mentoring young associates or even dealing with your family.”

“I found the program to be quite valuable on a number of levels,” explained Brenda DiLuigi (pictured right), Counsel at Linklaters LLP. brenda“The program provided access to very high-quality ADR training, mentoring by seasoned professionals, and networking opportunities in the ADR community generally. From my perspective (in particular, as counsel to clients facing the significant challenges associated with doing business in a heightened regulatory environment), the FINRA arbitration training program was extremely valuable, and I feel fortunate to have the ability to serve as a neutral in that capacity. I also enjoyed being part of a cohort of program Fellows who are beginning their careers in ADR.”

As a first step in this year’s program, participants were invited to complete the FINRA application to become an arbitrator so that they could become eligible to join FINRA’s roster of neutrals. After indicating their individual areas of interest, participants were assigned to, and have started to meet with their program mentors.

The program’s first official event will be CPR’s Corporate Leadership Award Dinner (including VIP reception) honoring David McAtee II of AT&T. Thereafter, program participants are invited to attend all CPR events that take place during the program, at no cost.

Once applications are approved, participants will be required to take FINRA’s first two training components online at their convenience. FINRA will then hold an in-person training for this group at the CPR offices in early April, following CPR’s annual meeting in Atlanta, GA taking place March 8-10, 2017. There will be no cost associated with any aspect of FINRA’s training and application process.

KristyKristy Offitt (pictured left), an Employment litigator at Ogletree Deakins and a member of this year’s program, signed up after receiving an email from LCLD. She has already been assigned two mentors and has started meeting with them. In addition to feeling that the negotiation and other skills learned in the program will be transferable, generally, to the work she is currently doing, Kristy explained, “I would love to do more mediation and arbitration later in my career, so I saw this as a great opportunity to start building a foundation toward that goal. It’s great to get this mediation experience.”

And do last year’s participants have any parting advice for the current class? As program alum Joseph Hanna aptly summarized, “Take full advantage of your mentors; they are there to help you. Take every opportunity you have to ask questions, meet with them, spend time watching them work. Nobody does it better than the mentors in this program.”

Facebook, Latest Leading Co. to Demand Greater Diversity in Legal Services

We can’t like this enough so we thought we’d share it as well: Facebook is one of the latest well-known companies to make necessary strides in the area of diversity in law, apparently now requiring that women and ethnic minorities comprise at least 33 percent of outside legal teams working on its legal matters.

According to a New York Times article on this development,Numbers alone, however, are not enough, under a policy that went into effect on Saturday. Law firms must also show that they ‘actively identify and create clear and measurable leadership opportunities for women and minorities’ when they represent the company in litigation and other legal matters.” The article also referenced a similar MetLife legal diversity policy to be announced later this month. 

This is great news, but it is still only a start. More needs to be done–not only by other companies large and small, but by all stakeholders to the dispute resolution process. And not only with respect to law firms, but mediators and arbitrators as well.

As CPR President & CEO Noah Hanft noted in his March 20 New York Law Journal Article, “Making Diversity Happen in ADR: No More Lip Service,” there are key roles for just about everyone to play in this process:

In-House Counsel: You are the drivers here.  According to Hanft, “You need to say not only that diversity is important to you, but to show that it is.” Referenced in both the NYT and NYLJ articles, and under the innovative leadership of GC Kim Rivera, CPR member HP announced in February that it would actually withhold fees – a 10% “diversity holdback” with certain conditions – from law firms that failed to comply with diversity requirements. 

Law Firms: “Try to learn of neutrals that you have not used,” Hanft suggests here. “What would be the harm when sending out the typical law firm memo asking whether anyone knows a good mediator in a copyright case, to specifically ask about diverse neutrals in that space? Be brave enough to do what your clients have told you they expect you to do in your own firm.”

Other ADR organizations: In the NYLJ article, Hanft lists education, mentorship and recruitment as important items on his own organization’s To Do list. He concludes, “But, most important, we must utilize our very best efforts to include those diverse candidates on slates; remind decision-makers of the benefits of diversity on the quality of the decision-making process; and then actively encourage the selection of diverse candidates.”

In sum, and in order to for diversity in law and ADR to “go viral,” we all have a social role to play. Tell your friends.