Elon Law Review symposium shines light on many roles of mediation

The annual event at Elon University School of Law in downtown Greensboro welcomed national leaders in alternative dispute resolution and featured keynote remarks on fostering the physical and emotional safety of clients.

Most attorneys and mediators assume that clients will act with professionalism and be on their “best behavior,” but when emotions flare, the safety of everyone involved in a legal dispute – clients, lawyers, judges, even bystanders – can be jeopardized.

Even when lives aren’t in danger, if a client knows he or she is in a safe place, it makes for a better outcome in negotiations.

“What we know about fear is that when the fear centers in our brains are triggered, we make terrible decisions,” Kristen Blankley, a national expert on mediation safety, told dozens of attorneys in Greensboro on Oct. 27, 2017, for the Elon Law Review’s annual national symposium. “We have an ethical obligation to consider safety and to make reasonable accommodations when we can, both for good decision making, and for good policy.”

Blankley’s lunchtime address included a number of suggestions for lawyers and mediators who sense a potentially tense meeting between two parties: knowing when to take breaks to diffuse tension, being aware of the exits to a building or a particular room, and inviting along a co-mediator to offer safety in numbers.

“Take seriously something that comes into your peripheral vision,” said the associate professor and director of the Robert J. Kutak Center for the Teaching and Study of Applied Ethics at the University of Nebraska College of Law. “Try to take in everything that is going on to make sure the surrounding area is secure. Watch the verbal and nonverbal language of parties at the table.

“Do we see emotional escalation? Do we know what to do with emotional escalation? A lot of times we get a sense of when something is going wrong.”

With a theme of “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” the 2017 symposium offered cutting-edge discussions on mediator ethics and standards across all areas and practices of law. National experts provided an update on recent case law and advisory opinions in mediation and arbitration. It also offered insights into the way clients make decisions and how a greater understanding of that process can be beneficial to attorneys.

“I was happy to accept the offer and to bring a new topic of mediation ethics and practice to the Elon Law community,” Blankley said later in the day about her keynote address. “The reality of today’s law practice is that negotiation, mediation, and arbitration are the primary ways by which lawyers solve problems.”

More than 90 lawyers, mediators, faculty and students registered for the program. Associate Dean Enrique Armijo and Elon Law Review Editor in Chief Britney Boles welcomed participants to the program and later thanked them in closing remarks, respectively.

The symposium was a homecoming for Diane Pappayliou L’16, a former editor in chief of the Elon Law Review. Now an attorney for Rountree Losee in Wilmington, North Carolina, Pappayliou took part in the late morning panel presentation that offered case updates on mediation, arbitration, developments in alternative dispute resolution, and collaborative law.

Pappayliou lauded the current Elon Law Review staff for choosing to focus its 2017 symposium on alternative dispute resolution.

“This is a good topic and it’s exciting that they’re doing something with lots of practical implications for both attorneys and law students,” she said. “So few cases actually go to trial. Most are settled by mediation and alternative dispute resolution. You think as a law student that this is what you do, but it really is.”

Stephanie Pazulski and Gabe Mirabelli, both members of the Class of December 2017, served as symposium editors for the Elon Law Review and led planning for the day.

“It was a pleasure to get to work with such great speakers,” Mirabelli said. “The fact that they were so excited about the symposium made prepping for the event a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. We had a wonderful turnout and hope that next year’s event is even more successful.”

Guest speakers at the 2017 symposium also included:

Debra Berman
– Assistant Professor of Clinical Studies & Director of the Frank Evans Center for Conflict Resolution (South Texas College of Law – Houston)

Ramona Buck
– Commissioner – Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS)
– Chair of the Federal government’s Interagency ADR Working Group (IADRWG)

Susan Exon
– Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Development (University of La Verne College of Law)
Member of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, Ethics Guidance Committee Member of the Civil Procedure Panel for the Legal Education, ADR, and Practical Problem-Solving Project
Former co-chair of the Ethics Committee (2013)

Samuel Jackson (Link to Materials Presented by Jackson)
Adjunct Professor (UNC School of Law)
Co-chair of the Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance for the Dispute Resolution Section of the ABA

John Sarratt
– Harris Sarratt & Hodges, LLP (Raleigh, N.C.)
– Adjunct Professor (Wake Forest School of Law)
Served on the Board of Governors of the N.C. Bar Association, N.C. General Statutes Commission, and Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism

Nancy Welsh
– Professor of Law and Director of the Dispute Resolution Program (Texas A&M University School of Law)
Chair of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution (2016-2017)