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The path to mediation: UW Carnegie Fellow addresses law, society in Georgia

Table talk

October 27, 2014

By Ketevan Iremashvili

Ketevan Iremashvili, a 2009-2010 Carnegie Fellow at UW, earned a Master Trainer’s Certificate from Law Teaching and Learning Institute (US). She now runs a Mediation Clinic at the University of Georgia in Tbilisi as the Clinical Director and shares in experience in teaching mediation in Georgia.

Changing perception from “win-lose” to “win-win” in legal cases goes beyond lawyering. It is a physiological process and it requires intensive training for mediators. I am currently active in training Georgian students and lawyers in mediation. I, myself, undergo intensive learning as a future mediator and conduct my research on mediation. I believe that popularization of mediation as a mechanism of alternative dispute resolution is a step forward for the country. However, the concept of mediation is used in various contexts within Georgia. Mediation is used in many different legal avenues, from labor, medical and tax mediation to juvenile matters in criminal law. Such a variety of usage in a fairly new institution may create threats if the institution is not understood in a single context. Labeling various modes of dispute resolution – most of which do not follow the core principles of meditation – as “mediation” will affect the expectation of consumers. At the end of the day parties are ones who call on mediation. They have to be correctly informed as to what is meant under each type of dispute resolution. For example, if parties believe mediation is a process wherein they themselves decide over their case, they might be surprised to see a mediator making the final decision in the process. Uniformity and clarity are important factors to preserve when developing a new institution.

I am also concerned about the way in which legal society in Georgia will adjust to this new institution. For this purpose, the values of the legal profession must be reassessed. By this, I mean that competitive lawyers who used to and were expected to “bark like dogs”  in a court room should transform themselves to engage in a quiet mode of constructive conversation with the lawyer of opposing party. For mediation to take root, the whole range of professional standards must be reevaluated. Georgian lawyers have to appreciate importance of innovation and creative thinking, collegiality towards the mediator and empowerment of client; that is, respecting client’s choice and final decision.

Ketevan IremashviliIn this complex process I see my role as a teacher. I try to sharpen the skills of students as future lawyer representatives and future mediators in the mediation clinic. I also intensively coach teams of students for international Competitions in Mediation, and share my teaching experience with colleagues on international level – e.g. International Conference on Clinical Legal Education (IJCLE-2014/Olomouc, Czech Republic). When teaching mediation, I promote creative thinking and constantly emphasize benefits of mediation.

Furthermore, I believe education should not be limited only to lawyers, but members of society must receive relevant information about the new institution of mediation. This is where I see room for using Street Law as a mechanism of educating lay persons about mediation. Street Law is an educational project – teaching law to non-lawyers. This program was implemented at Georgetown University Law Center and is now used worldwide. In Georgia, Street Law is primarily taught in high schools. I taught Street Law myself for two years in Georgian high schools, and in the next two years I trained master’s students of law to teach Street Law in secondary education.

Cultural specificities must also be considered when promoting mediation. Advantages of mediation will not be shared if people do not value time, communication, future and a creative effort. Opening door for new dialogs and discussions about the topic within the field and outside the field of lawyers will allow people to feel ownership over their problems. That may nonetheless “leave the lawyers hungry” – as they say, but will also result in a different picture. In a narrower context – lawyers will get more cases and judges will have more time to work on theirs. In a broader context – people will make quicker and safer decisions on their lives while preserving their tolerant values as humans.