Professionally, I am not given to bedazzlement. I am not among those who claim transformative or quasi-spiritual attributes to what (to me) really boils down to the learn-able professional skill of mediating business disputes. So when friends have reported their experiences attending the ICC International Mediation Competition with tears streaming down their blushing faces, stammering and gushing about how it had changed their lives, I thought I was learning more about them than about the event.
Well, this year I attended for the first time as coach of the New York Law School team. And… blush blush, gush gush, stammer stammer, stream stream….
This is a remarkable event, measured by any standard. Here are gathered about 250 well-trained and focused students from 67 business schools and law schools located in six continents, all highly motivated and practiced in certain distinct skills, prominent among them (a) how to listen constructively; (b) how to identify what the other party to a dispute needs; (c) how to use the intervention of a third party to create options that address the identified commercial needs of your client and of the counterparty; and (d) how to recognize when you have obtained your client’s objectives on satisfactory terms.
These are valuable skills in any of us, and I dare say lawyers who regularly practice them distinguish themselves. But 250 of them gathered in a room? And they are all 24-30 years old? And they are happy? And they are ambitious? What a zing!
And then you look around and realize that here, acting as judges or coaches or volunteer mediators, is… well, everybody! Here’s Lela Love from Cardozo, and Thierry Garby from Paris, and Colin Wall from Hong Kong, and Jim Lawrence from Houston. And over here is Ewa Gmurzynska from Warsaw. There’s Giovanni De Berti from Milan. Hal Abramson from Tuoro. Bill Marsh from London. Patrick Van Leynseele from Brussels. This is better than Old Timer’s Day — it’s like you died and went to mediation heaven!
The starry-eyed part, though, came when I watched my own team grow in confidence, competence, perception and skill, almost by the hour — and to see first-hand the accretion of professional opportunity through personal relationships. They met peers from Lagos:
…and even far-away Houston:
No one was more astonished than we to learn that we had advanced through the preliminary rounds to join the 16 Eighth-Finalists — and then the 8 Quarter-Finalists! To succeed to that level on the first outing was heady stuff.
But who can measure the impact that these connections and friendships will have on these students’ careers? Who can quantify the value of being able to call someone in Sao Paulo and re-introduce yourself from that time in Paris in 2015 and ask advice on resolving a dispute in Brazil?
And who can put a number, or a measure, on giving two young lawyers the experience of knowing — not being told, but actually experiencing — that their generation of attorneys includes not just litigators and deal-negotiators, but also a core of trained problem-solvers on every continent — and they know a lot of them already?
Darley Maw, NYLS 2L, and Colin McGeough, NYLS 2L