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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Become a Better Advocate and Problem Solver Through Mediation Training


By Margaret Keane, Dewey & LeBoeuf


Several years ago, I had the pleasure of taking Ron Kelly’s mediation training through BASF. My only regret about the program is that I didn’t take it about twenty years earlier. While the class satisfies the 40-hour training prerequisite for many mediation programs, it was much more than a “certificate program” for mediators and helped me add another dimension as an advocate for clients. Many of us could benefit from renewed focus on listening skills along with understanding and working with emotions — two core competencies that are at the heart of Ron’s program.

Attending this training will help younger lawyers and advocates of all stripes to build their problem-solving skill sets, regardless of whether they want to become mediators or are seeking to be better advocates and problem-solvers in other contexts.

Ron begins the program with practical exercises that help participants understand the concept of active listening. The class splits into groups of two and one participant spends five minutes describing a current life conflict, while the other sits as a silent listener. Many of us found it tough to let go of the litigator’s habit of preparing our next sentence instead of listening, but we all found it enlightening. This simple exercise set the tone for a renewed focus on listening that ran through the entire program.

We moved on to a series of demonstrations on how to set the stage for an effective mediation and returned the following week to deliver our opening presentations to our role-playing colleagues. These early efforts were captured on videotape. The videotape did bring another layer of understanding to the process. The course went on to cover simulations of each phase of the mediation process, replete with classmates more than willing to role play as difficult clients and reluctant participants. It became clear that the mediation process is not nearly as effortless as good mediators (like Ron Kelly) can make it seem.

We continued with lots more practice and finally a simulation of a complete mediation — with a lot of learning along the way!

Ron Kelly is one of the principal architects of California mediation law and all participants left clear on the ethical rules governing mediation and confidentiality under California law. Ron gives practical guidance on drafting settlement agreements that work and provides a complete set of model forms – useful tools for advocates preparing to represent a party in mediation. The small class size ensures substantial personal attention and interaction. Last but not least, the program was engaging and even entertaining.
Not just for mediators, I highly recommend this class for all interested in improving their listening, negotiating and dispute resolution skills.


Margaret Keane is a litigation partner with Dewey & LeBoeuf and co-chairs the firm’s glo-bal Employment Dispute Resolution Practice.


Five Day Mediation Training - Five Saturdays, October 15 - November 12

Register online for the training.


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