An Award Winning Partnership: Mediation Clinic & the District Court of Maryland

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After a long-awaited postponement, the Mediation Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law received the ADR Program Achievement Award from the District Court of Maryland Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Office. The award, originally bestowed in 2020, recognized the over twenty-year partnership between the law school and the judiciary.

The Mediation Clinic at Maryland Carey Law was one of the first mediation clinics in the nation. Over two decades, more than 250 students in Maryland’s Mediation Clinic have provided pre-trial and day-of-trial mediations in the Baltimore City District Court. Beyond serving in the role of a neutral, the partnership has led to meaningful program expansions, quality improvements, and research. Mediation Clinic students have helped to develop forms and informational videos for the program, and supported efforts to expand mediation opportunities in the District Court.

Faculty and students participated in a groundbreaking study by the Maryland Judiciary which found that participants in ADR expressed greater satisfaction with the judiciary than others who went to trial, or even those who reached hallway settlements without a mediation session. In addition, parties who resolved their claims in ADR were less likely to return to court for a follow up enforcement action, as compared to those who received a judge verdict. See the study.

In addition to the benefits for litigants, law student mediators receive an intimate view of how personal conflict can impact legal matters. They learn the value of dialogue, negotiation, and empathy in navigating legal disputes, and the interventions they can use as mediators and lawyers to help people in conflict gain a deeper understanding of each other while developing their own solutions. Some Mediation Clinic graduates continue to serve as volunteer mediators with the court when they become lawyers.

As recent graduate Alex Ain '21 reflected upon her experience, “The Mediation Clinic provided invaluable, hands-on experience, that I will use in both my professional and personal life. The ability to mediate real-world conflicts for the District Court and helping parties resolve disputes that seemed unresolvable was extremely impactful.”

The academic nature of the Mediation Clinic and Maryland Carey Law’s Center for Dispute Resolution also offers an incubator for innovation and testing for the District Court ADR Program. As Kemi Sanni, Regional ADR Programs Director, stated when presenting the Mediation Clinic with the award: “The ADR Office has benefited greatly from the professors’ wealth of knowledge, experience and indeed expertise in the ADR field, and as a result, often seek advice and assistance from the Clinic when developing new programs such as the rent pilot mediation program or revamping ADR. The ADR Office can always depend on the Mediation Clinic for meaningful and insightful feedback and their willingness to be the ‘testers’ of new or expanded ADR projects.”

As we celebrate the two decades of Maryland Carey Law Mediation Clinic student and faculty work that earned the District Court’s ADR Program Achievement Award, we look forward to many more decades of partnering with the Maryland Judiciary to provide, expand, and improve mediation services for the “people’s court.”