Pro Se Mediation Clinic Ups Students’ Negotiation Skills
When aspiring family lawyer Zoe Jeon ’22 was searching for ways to gain practical experience while in law school, the Pro Se Mediation Clinic was at the top of her list. Her participation did not disappoint.
“Since a lot of [family law] cases are settled in mediation or are required to go through that process, I thought it would be a great way to get my foot in the door,” said Jeon, who was able to practice her negotiation and advocacy skills in the clinic.
For the past five years, the Pro Se Mediation Clinic has given LLS students immersive first-hand experience in negotiating complex settlements outside of court, advising clients in mediation in front of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Adjunct Professor David Geffen provides students enrolled in the clinic with an overview of fair employment and housing law, as they start advising clients in mediations, sometimes as soon as their first week in the clinic. Last semester alone, seven students took on 13 mediation cases involving fair housing and employment issues from throughout California.
Using video conferences, email and multiple phone calls with the clients, students conduct interviews, lead client meetings and write briefings on each mediation session, all while making sure they meet their clients’ expectations as well as Professor Geffen’s standards. Geffen says that while he is always available to support students during the mediations, over the course of the semester he sees students become more confident and skilled at navigating the mediation for their clients without his help.
Each mediation is a team effort requiring students to collaborate in developing a strategy that generates a successful resolution while satisfying their client’s best interest. “The course offered us real-life hands-on experience in the representation of clients,” said Allen Simanian ’22, a third-year student focusing on real estate law.
Simanian shared that for him, participating in the clinic and successfully finalizing a mediation for a client is a feeling that was not matched elsewhere in his law school experience. “It’s a surreal feeling as a student, especially because it gives you a sense of confidence that you wouldn't otherwise get,” he said.
Another student in this year's course shared similar sentiments. Olivia Loveland ’22, a third-year student focusing on employment law, was able to take on three different mediation cases with her classmates on the issues of race, gender and age discrimination. She highly recommends this course because “having this mediation experience will make me more confident when I start working as an attorney.”
Students weren’t the only ones who had a positive experience; clients also gushed about how the program helped them. “What a wonderful idea for Loyola to partner with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. For those of us coming into mediation without counsel, this program is extremely beneficial,” said Patty, a satisfied client whose last name has been omitted to preserve her anonymity.