Tuesday, March 24, 2015

          Q + A with Court Mediator Mattie Robertson '10

          How the UC Hastings Mediation Clinic prepared her to manage the Court Mediation Program for the nonprofit SEEDS Community Resolution Center in Oakland.
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          Q: Tell us about your current position.

          A: I manage the Court Mediation Program for the nonprofit SEEDS Community Resolution Center; the program is one of SEEDS various conflict resolution services. As Program Manager, I supervise and mentor a team of volunteer mediators who provide same-day-as-hearing mediations for litigants in the Alameda County Superior Courts. We work in Small Claims, Civil Harassment, and Collections courts, facilitating dialogue supporting individuals to resolve their conflicts using effective communication, and interest-based negotiation. It's wonderful because people can craft personalized agreements through mediation that better meet their needs than traditional court-ordered judgments. I work closely with Judges and other court personnel to ensure that SEEDS' services meet the needs of the community and the courts. I also oversee the Court Mediation Practicum, training student mediators who work alongside the volunteers, and me, getting hands-on mediation experience with litigants in Small Claims Court.

          Q: How did your time at UC Hastings prepare you for your career?

          A: While at Hastings, I took various Alternative Dispute Resolution courses that led me to mediation; in particular, the Mediation Clinic. Through the Clinic I discovered my passion for mediation, and realized a place to apply my talents. The collaborative nature of mediation appealed to be me greatly, and fulfilled my desire to work directly with individuals and bring positive change to the community. Because I excelled in the Clinical Program, I sought a way to continue mediating, leading me to an externship placement at SEEDS during my last semester at Hastings. My professors were hugely supportive, and I continue to partner with some of them today.

          Q: Why did you decide to go into law in the first place?

          A: I always knew I wanted to continue my education after college, and law school seemed a natural fit for me. I have always been able to argue both sides of a disagreement; although, whether I choose to is another story. I also love to delve into the details and background of a conflict to find what is at the core of the issues for the people involved.

          Q: What is your greatest professional accomplishment so far?

          A: Sharing with others the ability to effectively resolve conflict. Helping people to restore broken relationships through mediation is extremely rewarding. To this end, I've mediated over 150 cases and counting, taught many classes on conflict, and mentored numerous mediators over the last five years. Cultivating the ability to see conflict as an opportunity is a great asset to our community; conflict is inevitable, so why not embrace it as an opportunity for growth? Sharing this message is a personal and professional goal.

          Q: Can you tell us about one of your most interesting cases?

          A: In a landlord-tenant mediation, I discovered the parties used to be best friends. The defendant's inability to pay rent had led to a breakdown of the friendship, and brought them to court. Both parties were devastated at the lost relationship, and through the mediation process they were able to begin restoring their friendship - which was the main interest for both. Their agreement included acknowledgements of past behavior, how to communicate in the future, and a modest payment plan for a discounted amount. The real issue was the relationship, and once that was addressed, the monetary terms fell into place quickly. Both parties left smiling.

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