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    New Competition Team Takes on Challenge of Mediation

    Dayton Law launched a new competitive team this school year to go along with its Moot Court and Mock Trial teams. The new Mediation Competition team participated in March in the regional rounds of the ABA Representation in Mediation Competition at the University of Tennessee in March.

    This year's team includes students Chris Hempfling, Jyllian Guerriero, Jenny Marietta, Jessica Moese and Heather Reece, the team's student coach and alternate. The team's advisors are Susan Elliott, assistant professor and assistant director for public services at the Zimmerman Law Library; John Kessler, a former judge on the Montgomery County, Ohio, Common Pleas Court and an adjunct professor at UDSL; and Dean Lisa Kloppenberg.

    "I'm proud of the time our students committed and the dedication they displayed on this competition," Kloppenberg said. "They were able to develop their mediation and ADR skills in ways that will help them serve their clients throughout their careers."

    Mediation competitions differ from moot court and mock trials, Elliott said, "in that those are modeled on what are essentially adversarial activities."

    But the mediation competition involves a collaborative activity. The teams are judged on the how effectively and creatively they are able to build a problem-solving relationship with each other and to find a satisfactory means to resolve a conflict. "You're judged on how well you satisfied your own interests and how well you engage your opponent to help build mutual satisfaction in the dispute," Elliott said.

    In the competition, two teams of two students from different law schools compete against one another by mediating a simulated dispute in front of a mediator, who also serves a competition judge. On each team, one student plays the role of the attorney, the other plays the role of the client. The students switch roles for their second competition.

    Jenny Marietta, a 2L summer starter who will graduate in May 2012, said the judges, who were attorneys and mediators from Tennessee, critiqued the teams on their communication, teamwork and whether their solutions had served their client¿s interests.

    "My favorite comment we received was, 'You two are going to be excellent lawyers,'" said Marietta, whose partner was Jessica Moese. "The experience was very affirming and helped us feel confident in the skills that we had learned, and our abilities as advocates."

    Another team member, Jyllian Guerriero, a 2L, said that the Dayton Law team¿s strength was its creativity. "We found that the more creative we could be in developing possible solutions, the more successful we were in finding a resolution," she said. "Thinking outside the box really became a useful tool in creating a problem-solving environment."

    Team members worked hard to understand the problems and to develop creative solutions to unique situations, said Chris Hempfling, a 2L. "The knowledge that close interaction with future clients will allow a mediation process to realize more effective outcomes was a key piece of the educational process," he said.

    Students said they wanted to participate on the team to improve their mediation skills and help prepare them for work in their legal careers.

    "Personally, I could never see myself in a courtroom or any similar adversarial environment," Guerriero said. "ADR provides a way to solve the problem without the hassle of trial. It saves time, money and relationships."

    Guerriero said the Mediation Competition team has helped her prepare for her legal career more than any law school activity. "We were given the opportunity to 'play out' numerous scenarios," she said, "and through that hands-on practice we really got a feel for what we'd be up against in the real world."

    Hempfling said that a challenge for students is balancing the emotional aspects associated with working closely with clients. "This experience has allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for working closely with clients and working collaboratively with them in truly understanding the situation and developing creative solutions to the clients¿ concerns," he said.

    Marietta said she learned to work effectively with a partner in a problem-solving setting. "I learned that creative problem solving is often even better than traditional legal solutions, as it is less win-lose, and more about mutually beneficial solutions," she said. "I definitely advanced my advocacy skills."

    The experience, Marietta said, taught the students to be client focused and ask important questions. "It's not just about what they want, but why they want it," she said. "I think the Mediation Competition and the creative problem-solving process encouraged each of us to be a better lawyer and not lose focus of our client as a person."