Dean Carole J. Buckner announced that St. Francis School of Law will offer a course in Alternative Dispute Resolution in its Juris Doctor Program. “This is an important topic for lawyers, and therefore, for our law students,” she said. “Although many civil disputes begin with litigation, the majority of cases are resolved through some type of alternative dispute resolution.” A host of procedures commonly used by lawyers to move disputes toward a final resolution will be covered in the new course, including negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. The course is an important addition to the St. Francis curriculum, given the law school’s mission of providing high quality training in practical professional skills.
The course is designed to allow students to engage in multiple weekly simulated negotiations, mediations, and arbitrations in order to lay the foundation and then accelerate the development of students’ oral and written skills, as well as students’ problem solving skills, in each of these important areas. Students will also receive key instruction regarding the important ethical considerations that are relevant to alternative dispute resolution processes, including instruction concerning mediation confidentiality and the boundaries of bluffing in negotiations. Among other interesting topics, students will learn about brain science as it is relevant to negotiations.
The course will be taught by St. Francis professor Michael White, who previously served as the executive director of the Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement. Professor White also is a Past President of the Beverly Hills Bar Association. He has more than 25 years of practice experience in mediation and arbitration, including family mediations that involve dissolution and probate issues, as well as an extensive background in litigation.
The new course will feature instruction and practical lawyering skills in the area of mediation, beginning with the pros and cons of mediation. Students will explore various models of mediation as they participate in mock mediation exercises. Students will also assess the importance of timing as they consider at what stage of a dispute mediation is most likely to be effective in terms of successfully resolving client disputes. In connection with their study of mediation, St. Francis students will continue to develop their legal writing skills as they learn how to craft a thorough and organized mediation brief that is professional and persuasive. This is one of many exercises throughout the St. Francis J.D. program designed to develop student skills in drafting the types of legal documents required of practicing lawyers.
In the last part of the new course, students will learn about arbitration, currently a hot topic as California cases continue to expose the advantages and disadvantages arbitration, and business and consumers continue to take conflicting positions. Students will consider the benefits of arbitration to businesses, as well as the ramifications of arbitration on consumers. Among other current controversies regarding arbitration, students will consider whether arbitration should be mandatory. In addition, the limited scope of the review available for errors by arbitrators will also be addressed. Again in this context, students will conduct a simulated arbitration proceeding.
All St. Francis live interactive courses take place in the state of the art virtual online classrooms, using WebEx technology that facilitates face-to-face, voice-to-voice live interaction between students and their professor. The course is a great addition to the St. Francis Juris Doctor program, designed to produce law school graduates with the foundational competence in the practical professional lawyering skills required for the successful practice of law.