Live Blog: IVth RMLNLU National Mediation Competition 2018

21 January 2018, 10 pm-5 pm:

After an intense semi-finalists, the 4 finalists were students of National Law University, Jodhpur, National Law University, Delhi, NALSAR, Hyderabad and VM Salgaocar College of Law, Goa.

The finals began in the Moot Court Hall at 3pm, on a matter involving a property dispute, contract law and a loan of Rs. 5 lakhs taken by one of the clients from the other party, being demanded for repayment and damages resulting from an electrical-defect induced fire in the property.

The Mediators began with an opening statement that explained the process and structure of mediation to the clients, “very clearly” and included encouraging statements like “we are here here, merely assisting you help yourself.”

After establishing confidentiality and a comfortable environment, the mediation broke into its private caucus sessions with both clients, alternatively. The sessions saw persuasive and coaxing, open ended questions floated by both mediators, who took leads alternatively.

Once the revelation of all relevant confidential information was complete, the session progressed into a joint one where the parties could agree on not taking the dispute to court and looking forward to resolving their dispute in future mediation sessions.

The Judges included Tom Valenti, Pascal Comvalius, Claudia Winkler, Catherine Davidson and the Advocate General, Allahabad High Court.

The judges found the competition to be “really close and consistently good.” Pascal believed that “they did the absolute best in their ability and power, having learnt from previous rounds.”

Catherine drew a unanimous agreement from all the other judges on stating that they saw a display of “good skills”. Tom felt that their performance “is a good model for students to aspire to at this stage of their education.”

The results were announced in the valedictory ceremony, at 6:00pm, with Varsha Monga, NLU Jodhpur being awarded the Best Mediator award; Lakshana, NALSAR Hyderabad, Runners-up Mediator; Sanjana Kakodkar, VM Salgaocar College of Law was awarded the Best Client award and  Karan Vijay, NLU Delhi was Runners-up Client.

The latter two were participating in an ADR Competition for the first time in their second year.

They recommended a couple of readings which law students could use to improve their skills- Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and Getting Past No, by William Ury.

20 January 2018, 12 pm-5 pm:

Jonathan on the extreme left and Abhikalp, second from right, with the participants after “the best session in two years.”

The first preliminary round problem was largely based on the Land Acquisition Act and the second on Transfer of Property Act, Hindu Succession Act and contract law.

The judges were overall quite satisfied with the performances of the participants but a few judges recommended areas where performances could be improved.

Mr. Pitambar Yadav thought that since a lot of students lack experience, exposure to such competitions gives them an ability to assess and reassess their performance.

Another judge, Ms. Gargi, being a practicing lawyer, remarked on the importance of realizing as aspiring lawyers that when conducting real-life mediations, the client is looking for empathy and they must be counselled from a perspective where unnecessary litigation may be avoided.

While acknowledging the lack of focus on ADR mechanisms in curriculum as a means to practice soft skills in being a lawyer, a faculty member of RMLNLU who was also a judge, argued that infrastructural difficulties such as making a class of 80 students practice mediation is highly difficult.

Moreover, another faculty member and judge observed that essentially a change in psyche of students and lawyers is required, given that all lawyers are looking to determine the question of who’s right, instead of focusing on arriving at an amicable solution that ADR mechanisms are based on.

Since the competition saw a lot of first-time participants, Pascal Comvalius was in no doubt that their orientations assisted them massively in the improvement of their performance.

Most participants agreed with this observation and were impressed by the high level of competitiveness in the rounds.

Jonathan Rodrigues noticed that some of the participants had picked up tips from the 1st Preliminary round and applied it to the 2nd but felt that they still need to practice emphatic and active listening skills.

He found the sessions to be good because of the use of open-ended questions like “What would your ideal solution be?” and “What if this mediation fails?” Mr. Pascal also observed that this competition is unique because mediators have to work with a co-mediator that they don’t know, which is a strength since they should learn to work together.

Claudia Winkler thought that the teams were strong in both her rounds and Tom Valenti stated that the participants were “quite good” despite a short orientation workshop, able to arrive at legally sound solutions and upholding the competition level.

The Quarter-Final rounds began at 10:00pm, on a problem essentially based on cheque-bouncing with other laws mentioned only to “confuse” the participants, in the words of the problem drafter.

The purpose of the problem in this round was for a test of skill of the participants, “to determine what the relevant and irrelevant facts are.”

The judges found that the level of competition had increased drastically, due to the feedback sessions after the preliminary rounds.

Jonathan Rodrigues declared that the mediation session he adjudicated was the best he had witnessed in the last 2 years, being very intense, saying “I thought it was a brilliant display of skill and role-playing.

I personally have not witnessed a better mediation competiton session in India, both as a competitor or as an assessor. Crisp, concise and clear opening statements. Both negotiators were not afraid to address the crude existence conflict and at the same time expressed willingness to resolve.

The mediators had perfect questions and clarifications and were spot on with their interruptions. Good body language and right tone of voice. The negotiators reached out to each other but not without protecting their own interests.

They didn’t resolve in such a short span of time but they asserted time and again to get rid of all pending litigations and engage in more mediation sessions.”

More to follow…

19 January 2018, 2pm-5pm:

The Orientation Session for the IVth RMLNLU National Mediation Competition, 2018, began with welcoming 4 experts on mediation and negotiation who were to conduct two workshops for participating Mediators and Clients, separately.

The experts included Mr. Thomas Valenti, a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and Board Member and Trainer at the International Academy of Dispute Resolution, offering mediation, arbitration and facilitation services and training, globally; Mrs. Catherine Davidson, a nationally accredited mediator and IMI certified mediator practicing in Australia; Mr. Pascal Comvalius, an IMI certified and MFN registered mediator, Netherland and Mr. Jonathan Rodrigues, a mediator with IIAM and the IICA and Co-founder of PACT, coming from a background of psychology and law, practicing mediation consultation in Mumbai.

The orientation workshop for Mediators was led by Tom Valenti and Jonathan Rodrigues, who began the session with an activity engaging the participants.

The participants were asked to stand in pairs, facing each other and draw mirror images of numbers from 1-10 with both parties taking lead alternatively. The purpose of the same being to demonstrate that mediation is all about engaging and alternatively restraining oneself to arrive at an amicable solution.

They went on to discuss the format of an ideal mediation that begins with an opening statement, comprising of introductions that break the ice and primarily determine if the party one is engaging with, is competent to mediate the session.

The mediators are then expected to describe the process of mediation to the clients as voluntary, confidential and non-binding.

The mediators are expected to explain the two layers of confidentiality that is shared by the participants in the joint session and private caucuses, with persuasive statements like “we encourage you to remain frank and honest in our conversation.”

The mediators must then discuss their roles, identify the process of mediation in accordance to the rules of the competition and direct the session towards being solution-based. The last stage is conclusion for the session.

The simultaneously conducted workshop was for the orientation of clients, conducted by Catherine and Pascal, who took the participants through the criteria for evaluation, to be employed by the judges.

The clients are required to lay down their positions in the opening statement and also express their resulting needs and concerns due to their position.

For example, if the situation comprises of violation of a contract that has affected the aggrieved party, the purpose of the mediation is to meet the needs of the party arising from the breach and not merely awarding damages. It must follow a summary format and be acknowledging of the other party’s feelings.

The second most important criterion to be remembered is that of body language. The parties must actively listen to the participants and make eye-contact while nodding attentively.

The third criterion would expect the clients in such mediation competitions to be responsive to the other party’s concerns. The clients must acknowledge and address the other client’s needs by asking follow-up questions, empathizing and offering responses that display accommodation, flexibility and adaptability.

The clients must also be transparent in disclosure of their information. If new information is put on the table, the party may state that they didn’t know of this fact and take a moment to process it.

Last but not the least, in such student mediation competitions the client must stay in character of the person they are representing and not shy away from making disclosures of their needs or interests by making statements like “Today my motivation is____/The concerns I am seeking redressal for are______.”

Since the purpose of such competitions is to primarily judge skills of flexibility and adaptability in mediation, the participants must ensure adequate display of the same.


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