By Kriti Sharma
Sanjana Aravamudhan of NLIU Bhopal won Best Mediator, while Priyamvada Mishra of NLIU Bhopal bagged the Best Client award!
Yamini Kumar, NUJS was adjudged Runners Up Mediator.
Arushi Nayar of NALSAR University was Runners Up Client, losing by a margin of merely 1 mark.
Vishal Agarwal and Turab Ali of Amity Law School, Noida, were adjudged as the Best Team.
The Legal Aid Committee which organized the event, extends their heartiest congratulations to the winners and participants.
[End of Update]
The finalists for the III RMLNLU National Mediation Competition 2017, comprised of a Mediator and Client from NLIU Bhopal, a Mediator from NUJS and another Client from NALSAR.
The problem was based on an international dispute arising out of violation of The Sherinford Water Treaty 1971 (think Indus Water Treaty) between two neighbouring nations- Republic of Euros and Kingdom of Mycros.
The judging panel comprised of Hon’ble Justice DK Upadhyaya, Allahabad HC, Lucknow Bench; Hon’ble Justice AR Masoodi, Allahabad HC, Lucknow Bench; Mr. Yashovardhan Swarup, Advocate and Joint Secretary, Mediation Cell, Lucknow; Mr. Alok Mathur, Advocate and Member, Mediation Cell, Lucknow and Mrs. Anita Bahri, Senior Advocate, Delhi High Court.
Praising the “high level of competition”, in their feedback, the judges had the following, to say:
Justice Upadhyaya: The mediator’s role is not only to understand problems and identify interests but also to arrive at a solution which is within legal bounds.
Justice Masoodi: In mediation and specially, inter-state disputes (as in the present problem), the body language of the Clients must be conducive towards finding a solution. Facial expressions have to be carefully moderated so as to build trust. Rigidity in the body language will not lead to arrival at bona fide solutions.
In the Valedictory Ceremony starting at 6:00 pm, the Judges addressed the participants and student body of RMLNLU and emphasized upon the increasing need for mediation in dispute resolution.
The Hon’ble Justices Masoodi and Upadhayaya also cleared several misconceptions relating to mediation, in their addressal.
After broadcasting a documentary on the reactions of parties who had opted for mediation to solve disputes that had been under litigation for years, Justice Masoodi said, “parties, that come with disputes have suffered immense emotional injury.
These injuries need to be addressed and heard with an empathetic ear. Unless you approach dispute resolution with the intrinsic and required human touch, you will not be successful in it. Legal education is preparing you for a social order that is not as imbalanced as it stands today. And we, being an elite, educated class, must address these issues.
The logical question that needs to be asked here, by all of us, is how to make, you learners, a part of this institution. We have to develop mediators, determine their authority and work towards creating solutions having the sanctity of law.”
Justice Upadhyaya said, “the common conception that ADR mechanisms are oriented towards decreasing pendency of suits and burden on courts- is a myth. ADR mechanisms were evolved, not to decrease pendency but to give better solutions.
Section 89 of Civil Procedure Code though introduced late, was brought consciously by law-makers. With the Judiciary working on ADR mechanisms too, it must be understood that they were adopted due to their effectiveness in other countries.
Another concept evolved after the introduction of Section 89, is that of ‘judge-aided mediation.’
Mediation and Conciliation are sometimes understood as working only in matrimonial disputes and family feuds. This is not true at all. But it can also be used in disputes involving high commercial stakes- mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, asset transferring amongst others.
Talking of rights and liabilities in a court of law are entirely different. For a professional lawyer trained in the traditional skill of advocacy will find it difficult to be moulded into mediation.
Those students, planning to pursue academics must study the field of mediation and evolve better mechanisms specially related to training mediators in skill development.
This field requires research and comparison with foreign jurisdictions and their mechanisms, so ours can benefit.”
[End of update]
The teams that qualified for the Semi-Finals included teams from NUJS, NLIU, NIRMA, NLUD, NALSAR and UPES.
Starting at 11:00 am on 19 February 2017, the problem was based on a dispute in relation to copyright infringement, between a renowned religious historian Tom Wouter and his publisher, Florence Higgins Publishers Inc.
The Judges Panel in one of the Mediation Cells comprised of Mr. Rohit Tripathi, Advocate, Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench; Mr. Nadeem Murtaza, Advocate, Allahabad High Court and Mr. Manwendra Kumar Tiwari, Assistant Professor of Law at RMLNLU.
The correspondent interviewed them, based on their feedback.
Question: How do you envision an ideal approach for a Client, towards revealing confidential information?
Mr. Nadeem Murtaza: Generally, in private one-to-one caucus sessions between a client and mediator, the client must not disclose the information at the offset itself.
Otherwise the client’s weaknesses are revealed to the other client too, which is extremely harmful in case the dispute goes to litigation.
The information must be revealed only in private sessions, when the competitor is not present. The aim being- to sit for a successful mediation.
Question: How important is to have a Plan B, being a mediator, thinking from the perspective of clients?
Mr. Rohit Tripathi: It is expected that the parties and not mediators, to come up with a plan for solutions. I was simply testing the flexibility of mind of the mediators when I posed this question to them.
As a mediator, you must be open to all possibilities. The mediator must not sit with a closed mind under any circumstance.
Question: In a Post-Consultation Session, how can a mediator waive confidentiality to discuss the information garnered in private caucus sessions (in Consultation period)?
Mr. Manwendra Kumar Tiwari: It’s a skill to be able to get the clients to disclose the information they revealed to the mediator, in the Post-Consultation period, when all 4 participants sit together. That should be the aim.
Another thing that can be done is that the Mediator must ask the Client at the end of the private caucus session, if he is allowed to share the disclosed information with his co-mediator, to arrive at an amicable and best-suited solution.
Question: What would your observations of and recommendations for the participants, be?
Mr. Rohit Tripathi: One thing ignored by most participants in their opening statements is to inspire confidence in the client.
Introduce yourself properly, emphasize upon the element of neutrality and talk about previous experiences (for example, make up a story about a successful mediation conducted by you, between two stubborn parties).
The most important aspect is the psychological mindgame to be played with the client.
Question: What skills do you think a client must have or acquire, to get into the skin of the character they are portraying?
Mr. Manwendra Kumar Tiwari: This is not a skill expected from every law student. It’s an acting skill, I think is inherent rather than acquired.
Empathizing with a cause may not always lead to its actual portrayal. And since not everyone can associate with the cause, it becomes difficult to associate with the character.
Mr. Rohit Tripathi: Even as a lawyer, it’s important to remember that professionally, once a lawyer starts representing their client, they step into the client’s shoes. But personally, it becomes very important to not get very emotionally affected.
[End of update]
Quarter-Finals commenced at 6:00 pm after the declaration of break-ins by teams from 12 different colleges, including NLSIU, NALSAR, NUJS, NLIU Bhopal, Amity Noida, ICFAI Dehradun, NIRMA, NLU-O, UPES, Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies and Symbiosis Pune.
The problem for the Quarter-Finals related to a property dispute arising out of a disrupted relationship between a mother and daughter, leading to the filing of a suit for declaration of title and injunction.
This time, the correspondent sought feedback and tips from the Judges, besides the participants.
Question: How was this round different from the Prelims, for you?
Mediator 1: The feedback given by the Judges after the Quarters was of excellent help. We weren’t allowed that in the earlier rounds. The mediation cell felt very balanced, with the clients really getting into their roles.
They arrived at a solution to the dispute relatively early because of co-operation with the mediators and each other.
Question: Was there any change in your strategy and approach for this round?
Mediator 2: Finding the trigger questions leading to disclosure of the confidential was far tougher in Quarters. The problem being extremely wide in scope, left a lot of gray areas to be explored. It led to a lot of time management on our part.
Question: As a Client, which Mediator did you prefer in your Cell?
Answer: The comforting one who kept following up with exceptionally good gestures like politeness by saying things like “after you, ma’am”, “sorry to keep you waiting” and escorting me to the table.
He was also brilliant at identifying my interest as a widowed mother, wishing reconciliation with her estranged daughter.
The other Mediator was successful at extracting all the confidential information I had to offer, in the caucus session by asking trigger questions like, “how was your relationship with your husband?”
Question: How did you get into the role of the mother who breached the fiduciary relationship with her daughter and yet sought conciliation?
Answer: Initially I was feeling helpless but relied on my observation of interpersonal relationships.
Choosing to empathize with the mother, I began to think how she is simply seeking acceptance and love from her daughter after a bad marriage and the death of her husband.
The following questions were addressed to the Judges.
Question: What would your feedback be, about the level of competition after judging 3 rounds? How would you ask the participants to improve?
Answer: There are very good teams present here. Application of law seems to be a weak point, though.
Mediators play a pivotal role in freeing a dispute of litigation. Invoking that thought, I would ask Mediators to primarily focus on convincing their clients about why mediation is the best choice of alternative dispute settlement, even better than arbitration, in their opening statements.
For instance, by highlighting that it is less time consuming as opposed to litigation which runs on for 15 years, cost-effective, voluntary and confidential.
As far as the Clients are concerned, I would ask them to strive to get into the skin of their characters. Empathize.
Create a background story for why the client is demanding what they are by analyzing the emotional aspect of their decision-making too.
The clients also appear to know what the law is, by virtue of being law students themselves, whereas, in reality, that’s not the case. So go to the grass-root level and forget what you think you know.
Question: What impressions have you carried about the participants and what recommendations would you make to them, in arriving at an amicable solution to their dispute?
Answer: In this round, one of the Mediators drew an analogy of his role as a mediator to a catalyst in a chemical reaction. That was impressive.
The Mediator is duty-bound to inform their client of the legal ramifications of the information they reveal and the solution they seek, on the basis of it. Coming to a mere settlement is not the sole purpose of the session, as the parties can get there later too. The mediator must stick to their stand.
The Clients are disclosing their confidential information without grilling and being asked trigger questions by the mediators. The clients are not supposed to reveal the confidential information by merely being asked, “is there anything else you would like to share with us?”
[End of update]
Preliminary Rounds 2 of the Competition began at 3:00 pm on 18 February 2017.
The problem was based on fraud in accounting and allegations of oppression and mismanagement in a company owned by two disputing cousin brothers.
Post the sessions, participants shared their experience with the correspondent.
Question: How would you analyze the teamwork between your co-mediator and yourself?
Mediator 1: I would say my co-mediator was creative in his approach, starting the session by narrating a story to the clients.
I handled the technical aspects of the session, like describing the process of mediation to them. We’d discussed this before we started the session.
Question: How would you say you tried to create a personal bond with your clients? What approach did you follow?
Mediator 1: I kept asking them if they were comfortable with the way the session was progressing and if they sought any clarifications. I told them this is an informal session and they must treat us as friends and peers, to create a comfortable environment.
Mediator 2: I follow an emotional approach specially when there are interpersonal relations involved in a dispute. You could say I am at being empathetic.
Question: How would you describe your experience at the Competition?
Mediator 1: The competition level is extremely good. It seems to be pretty cut-throat with only 8 out of 40 teams qualifying after a single prelim.
The level of judging is also good. The Guide Book for the Rules of the Competition were really good. I wish we had more preliminary rounds but hope to make it further.
Question: What has been the best part of the Competition for you, so far?
Mediator 3: The best part was undoubtedly the orientation and mock given to us. It gave me a lot of direction in how to frame my questions according to the approach I chose.
Question: As a Client, how useful were the tips given to you in the Orientation and Training Programme?
Client: Before the orientation, we were clueless.
Tips like making eye contact with the mediator during the caucus sessions and getting into the skin of the character we had to play, were extremely useful.
It was all about role-playing for me.
[End of update]
Preliminary Rounds 1 of the III RMLNLU National Mediation Competition commenced at 11:00 am on 18 February 2017.
The problem was based on a commercial dispute between UP Agro Food Pvt Ltd (manufacturer of roasted dalia, atta, etc) and Lucknow Gas Ltd (a natural has services provider for industrial use).
The format for the Competition is unique as there are 2 mediators and 2 clients, all from separate and competing teams, seated together in a single Mediation Cell.
There are 3 stages in the process of Mediation– Consultation period (inclusive of 4 caucus sessions between both mediators with both clients, individually), Post Consultation period and Cross-Caucus.
The participants came out of the rounds, thrilled by the experience and had this to say:
Client: This was my first experience at a mediation competition, considering I’m in second semester. It was a great experience, the competition level being very high here.
I’m going to do this more from now on because it combines both elements brilliantly- fun and competitiveness. The problems are very well drafted, leaving room for innovative answers. You have a great alumni for the judging panel!
Mediator: This is one of the best mediations I have ever done. The format is brilliant.
There are generally 2 mediators who sit together as part of the same team but here, with all 4 participants in the room from different teams and with special allocated caucus time for each mediator with both clients, there was immense room for cooperation and teamwork.
The training sessions provided by the organizing committee, were extremely helpful in forming strategies. Looking forward to being a part of the competition for future rounds too!
Lawctopus would like to thank Kriti Sharma for a fantastic coverage!