An update from the Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution (CNDR), on the Mediation going virtual for Spring 2021:
“Designing the car while driving it” is the way Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and Clinical Professor of Law Gail Silverstein described the Mediation Clinic’s new Small Claims virtual mediation project at San Mateo Superior Court.
As co-directors for the spring semester, Gail and fellow Clinical Professor Carol Izumi needed to replace the Clinic’s long-standing in-person Small Claims mediation program at San Francisco Superior Court (SFSC) with a virtual fieldwork alternative. When SFSC declined to pivot to virtual Small Claims mediation, Gail and Carol approached the ADR Program leadership at San Mateo Superior Court with a proposal to create 3 Small Claims Zoom mediation calendars per week that would be staffed by the Mediation Clinic. San Mateo Court leadership approved the Clinic’s proposal on December 21, 2020, with a launch date of January 1, 2021.
Fourteen Clinic students served as mediators and court clerks during the weekly calendars through April 19, 2021, mediating 3-6 cases per student and serving as clerk 1-2 times. In addition, the Mediation Clinic continued to accept referrals for virtual mediation from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission for discrimination complaints in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Reflecting on their Clinic experience in the final seminar class, students commended the sense of community and connection with classmates spread across the country, their personal and professional transformations, honing a varied skillset through praxis, creating rapport and trust with mediation parties, adapting the mediation process to meet party needs, and transferring lessons into their personal lives and careers. It was a fun and rewarding semester for all, even under pandemic constraints!