Law students from U of M ready for competition in Toronto

A team of students from the University of Manitoba’s faculty of law are taking part for the first time in the second annual Canadian National Mediation Advocacy Competition (CNMAC).

The event goes on for three days and involves students in teams of two performing mock mediation scenarios, playing defence lawyers and the client against another team of two.

CNMAC communications spokesperson, Diana Spremo told the Manitoban that industry experts will judge the teams throughout the competition.

“Professional mediators [rank . . . ] how well [teams] prepare for and represent their client in the mediation process,” Said Spremo.

“Winners will move forward to the next round, where, in the end, three top awards will be determined. The winning team gets to represent Canada at the international competition next year in Paris, France,” she continued.

A mediator is a third party that is brought in when two parties cannot come to a resolution. The mediator is selected to help resolve the dispute, but has no decision-making power. They are there mainly to make the process quicker.

The mock scenarios are focused on private law, usually involving two individuals rather than an individual against the state.

Jennifer Schulz, a professor at U of M and past judge of the competition, said, “We’re not looking at which side won. You look [to see] if the parties reached an agreement, and how well each side performed.”

She continued, “Also to see the performance of the lawyer, and if they got their client a good deal.
From that, the teams will get points and whoever has the more points will move on to the next round.”

Schulz is also the coach of the team that the U of M is sending this year. The students are Katie Hall and Alison Cathcart, both third-year law students which Schulz feels were the best choices for the U of M.

Training for the competition was constant and involved a number of exercises. “We bring people in to be the lawyer and client against Katie and Alison, and practise a mediation session,” said Schulz. “After session, we debrief it and critique it, see what we could improve on and what they did well,” continued Schulz.

Cathcart told the Manitoban, “In preparation for each practice session, Katie and I review information we’ve been given about a particular conflict. [ . . . ] We think about the legal issues that arise out of the conflict as well as our client’s underlying interests. We also consider the interests we expect the other party will have.”

“Part of the training we’re receiving is how to think on our feet to protect our client’s interests and find ways to help the client take steps to resolve the conflict,” she continued.

Schulz said the reason the U of M didn’t participate last year was because Schulz herself was a judge.

Cliff Hendler, co-founder of the competition and president of Canada’s leading mediation firm, DRS Dispute Resolution Services, said, “Mediation expertise has become critical for lawyers.
Clients want timely and cost-effective resolution, making mediation advocacy skills an essential component of progressive legal education.”

The competition takes place in the law courts in downtown Toronto from Nov. 19-21. Universities from across Canada make the choice to participate in the competition.

Schools competing this year are the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, McGill University, York University, University of Windsor, University of Saskatchewan and Dalhousie University.