• thelegallybrunette

#traineediaries - The Mediator's Path

Three people sitting at a table with paper and pens.
Round-table discussions are always a highlight.

During the entire time of COVID-19 and the necessary imposed restrictions, there have been many posts, articles, comments and discussion on taking this time to reflect, to look inwards, to be able to start afresh.

While the pandemic has been sweeping in its scale and devastating for the individuals and families affected, it has taken a great deal of my empathy and energy, especially in the early days. Reading the news online did not inspire positivity and left me feeling quite drained. While I was being informed about the state of the world and the public health situation in my own country, to be so inundated with statistics and to hear of heartbreaking loss did affect me.

It took time for me to recognise that self care was something that was essential for my inner world, that while I was unable to change the state of the world, to assist in finding a cure for the virus or contribute to policies that would contribute to maintaining health and safety in the public interest, what was in my control was ultimately my own education, my own up-skilling and my own methods of coping.

Through this, my focus was able to shift to the present and ultimately, to the future.

So little time, so much to do, indeed.

One positive career-oriented opportunity I took to develop was mentioned briefly in my previous post, namely that of mediation, an important area of alternative dispute resolution which offers a confidential, voluntary process for individuals wishing to solve their issues outside of a court-room, to permit a neutral third party to examine the issues in a collaborative manner.

The process has been established on a statutory footing through the enactment of the Mediation Act 2017, which provides that a solicitor must advise their client of the mediation process as a means of resolving the particular dispute prior to entering into contentious litigation proceedings and swear a statutory declaration to that effect.

The definition of mediation as set out in the Act "means a confidential, facilitative and voluntary process in which parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, attempt to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve the dispute."

Mediation is widely used in jurisdictions throughout the world, including the United States, China and Australia, so its importance cannot be ignored.

While I have not hand first-hand experience of mediation and have only studied it in theory, I can pinpoint my interest in mediation in the form of two stories: the first was while I was studying for the crucial FE-1 Law Society of Ireland entrance exams. Truth be told, I was struggling to overcome two final exams and realised that I needed support to help me progress.

So I was able to engage a tutor who was a qualified solicitor and mediator, whose assistance was invaluable to helping me get over those final hurdle.

At the end of one of our sessions one evening, feeling that bit more prepared and at ease, I engaged him in casual conversation and asked him more about his work, curious about what the job of a solicitor is, and also, how the mediation process worked. He gave me a brief definition of what mediation is and how it is a way to help people communicate their issues to a neutral third party during particularly difficult situations.

He concluded by telling me that he had worked on a mediation that week between two sisters who were involved in a property dispute, and he had spent the better part of a full day mediating between them, listening to their views and offering them a chance to reconcile.

At the end of the session, he told me that they went to have a coffee together which they had not done for many years.

The story struck me in so many way, both in terms of family dynamics and how a person could bring family members together to talk things through without taking sides, without being contentious or offering a win/lose scenario.

My second story is to do with an outstanding young person, both in the legal profession and as a philanthropist, Sinead Kane, the first legally blind qualified solicitor in Ireland. Her incredible journey came to my attention through my work as the director of Community with Junior Chamber International Cork, where she was nominated for an award as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons. She went on to become one of the top ten national winners overall, and it was a crowning achievement. Her resilience and determination as well as her qualification as a mediator was fascinating to me, and I was so inspired by her story of running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, entering the Guinness Book of World Records as the first legally blind marathon runner to achieve that record.

Being able to speak with her at the national awards ceremony held at Harvey's Point in Donegal, to hear her proclamation of running for President one day, to hear her conviction and to hear of how her success has defined her was a wonderful opportunity and one that I never forgot.

Perhaps my vision stemmed from an idealistic view of assisting people, but in these days of looking out for others and showing that empathy, I decided to take that step towards developing my career that aligned with my own personal views and my goals for the future.

It has already been an interesting and exciting challenge to get to grips with the process of mediation and the principles guiding the process, how it works in practice and the many considerations to have regarding neutrality and unconscious bias, and though I will confess, that it has taken a backseat to my main subjects and chosen electives in Blackhall Place and I have just dipped my toe into what the course can offer, I intend to engage further with the course during the Summer to hopefully gain a much better understanding of mediation and how it can boost my career prospects.

To all my readers, I hope that you continue to stay safe and healthy and to look out for one another in these new times we find ourselves in. Thank you for reading.

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