Students in the Mediation Clinic have the opportunity to develop skills that are important to effective problem solving and wise lawyering. In particular, they explore the rapidly developing field of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) while providing much-needed services to people in conflict.
Students in the Mediation Clinic participate in various court- and community-based dispute resolution programs in New York City. In addition, the Mediation Clinic offers free dispute resolution services to the Columbia community.
The Mediation Clinic gives those students who may make mediation part of their professional lives a good start in terms of both skills and ethics. It helps students see the benefits and limitations of mediation and other dispute-resolution techniques so that they can responsibly counsel clients about their choices; it helps students understand how feelings, background values, and personal style affect performance in a professional role; and it provides quality assistance to parties whose disputes the clinic mediates. In the classroom, students receive mediation-skills training and analyze the ethical, systemic, and jurisprudential issues involved in the ADR movement. The "texts" for class include the mediations that students observe or conduct, as well as readings, tapes, and role-plays that highlight important issues in the development of mediation practice. In addition, students observe "neutrals" (mediators) at work in a variety of settings.
Students mediate actual community disputes at the Community Mediation Center at Safe Horizon, a nonprofit victim-assistance, advocacy, and violence-prevention organization. Typical cases include disputes between neighbors, roommates, and co-workers, as well as business and organizational conflicts. Students also mediate civil cases at New York City Civil Court Personal Appearance Part and small claims cases at the Harlem Small Claims Court, as well as employment-discrimination claims brought by federal employees and referred by EEOC administrative law judges.
"Columbia's clinics offer a chance for students to do something out of the classroom that has direct practical application. What attracted me to mediation in particular was that it teaches skills—and requires that you develop and use them—in ways that are applicable not just in the mediation setting but in a lot of different settings. Mediation is largely about problems that people have, but problems are compounded by more elusive emotional issues. My favorite part of the clinic was learning how to really listen to people and understand what they mean as well as what they say. The most challenging part was putting my own opinions aside and accepting that the main goal was for the parties to come to an agreement that they both found acceptable."
The Columbia Law School Mediation Clinic provides an informal and confidential forum where participants can discuss their concerns. The mediators are trained law students who act as neutral third parties. With the help of mediators, the parties sit down together and generate solutions. Unlike a judge, a mediator does not decide who is right or wrong. The mediator simply helps the participants communicate and, when appropriate, reach an agreement that respects the needs and interests of all parties. Mediation is a confidential, voluntary process.
Disputes, conflicts, and complaints are a normal part of University life. Mediation allows parties in a dispute to control the outcomes of their conflicts. Mediation can work well for people who want to avoid the stress and inflexibility of more formal procedures or for people who need to continue working relationships. Many kinds of conflicts can be resolved successfully through mediation.
Mediation can help resolve a range of issues including disrespectful treatment, noise complaints, harassment, assault, discrimination, and property damage. Disputes occur throughout the university community and between a variety of parties; for example, between students, between roommates, between faculty members and students, or between co-workers.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF MEDIATION
Mediation works best when all the parties involved are present to discuss the issues that are the source of conflict. The neutral mediator helps create an environment where all participants have equal and full voice. Such open communication helps people in conflict listen to one another's viewpoints and identify the underlying issues and interests. In this way, the mediation process allows participants to find meaningful resolutions to their disputes. Often participants leave mediation better able to communicate and resolve conflicts in the future.
HOW TO REQUEST MEDIATION
The Columbia Law School Mediation Clinic offers free dispute resolution to members of the Columbia Community. You can request mediation by:
Professor Carol Liebman, Clinical Professor of Law, joined the Columbia faculty in 1992. She has lectured and taught widely on negotiation and mediation, legal education, and professional-responsibility issues, and has written about the use of mediation in a variety of contexts. Professor Liebman has been in the forefront of the movement toward Alternative Dispute Resolution and has taught in Israel, Brazil, Vietnam, and China about mediation and negotiation. She founded the Law School's Negotiation Workshop and is the faculty director of the Profession of Law class. Since 2000, Professor Liebman has made several trips to China as part of a Ford Foundation initiative to establish clinical legal-education programs at Chinese law schools.
Alexandra Carter, a former associate attorney with Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and a mediator, is an associate clinical professor, teaching the Law School's Mediation Clinic with professor Carol B. Liebman.
Carter, who won the Jane Marks Murphy Prize for clinical advocacy while a student at Columbia Law School, has become a strong advocate of mediation as a valuable tool for many kinds of legal challenges. Through Safe Horizon, a New York-based non-profit that specializes in mediation, Carter has served as a mediator. She has also supervised student mediations in court-related programs at New York City Civil Court and Harlem Small Claims Court.
She has been at Cravath, Swaine & Moore since 2004, where she has served on a team defending against a multi-billion dollar securities class-action lawsuit related to Enron. She has also served as the senior antitrust associate on several multi-billion dollar mergers and worked on cases involving copyright law.
Carter majored in English and minored in Mandarin Chinese at Georgetown University, earning her B.A. in 1997. She spent 1997-98 in Taiwan on a Fulbright Scholarship, where she researched Taiwan's contemporary literature to assess the political tensions at the time between those who wanted the island to assert independence and those who favored reunification with the Republic of China.
She worked as a private equity analyst with Goldman Sachs in New York from 1998 to 2000, then enrolled at Columbia Law School, where she took the mediation clinic, and later worked as a teaching assistant in the clinic under Professor Liebman. Carter also was articles editor for the Journal of Transnational Law.
While at Columbia Law School Carter also won the Lawrence S. Greenbaum Prize for best oral argument in the 2002 Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition. Carter earned her J.D. in 2003, then clerked for the Hon. Mark L. Wolf, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston before joining Cravath, Swaine & Moore.