January 08, 2004

Seminar participants learning mediation skills

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Facilitating agreements between quarreling parties is the focus of a three-day training seminar in basic mediation skills this week at the law school at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Among the 36 participants are two practicing attorneys, two graduate students, 26 law school students and other community members. The training sessions started today (Jan. 8) and continue from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in Room 206 of the Hiram H. Lesar law building.


Media Advisory

Interviews with participants and coaches are available Friday and Saturday. The suggested time is from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, and around 9 a.m. Saturday. Contact Suzanne J. Schmitz, the Alternative Dispute Resolution project coordinator and clinical professor, at 618/536-4423, or by email at clinic@siu.edu to arrange interviews. The program, along with additional classes in mediation ethics and practice, is a one-hour course for law school students. The training is also a prerequisite for law students who wish to enroll in the Alternative Dispute Resolution Clinic. ADRC students mediate disputes at the Jackson County Courthouse, in Carbondale and on campus.

Mediation is an alternative to going to court, according to Michael P. Ruiz, director of admissions, media and community affairs at the law school.

"The goal of mediation is that both parties sit down, tell their side of the story, and work together to try and come up with a solution to their problem," he said.

Examples of issues appropriate for mediation include roommate and neighbor disputes; small claims matters, such as disputes over repairs or unpaid bills; landlord-tenant problems; nursing home complaints; family problems; and consumer complaints.

During the three-day training session, students practice mediating three disputes, each time with the assistance of a "mediation coach." More than 27 faculty and staff members, as well as ADRC graduates, volunteer their time as coaches.

Career preparation and community outreach are among the goals of Southern at 150, the blueprint for the growth of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Suzanne J. Schmitz, the ADR project coordinator and clinical associate professor, is conducting the training.

"Law students take the mediation training in order to prepare them for the changing complexion of the legal profession," she said. "In today's world, lawyers must be prepared to represent clients in mediation as in litigation. Learning to mediate will help prepare them to learn to represent clients in mediation."