Monday, 29 July 2013

My day at mediation...

One of the perks of working at a litigation boutique is that you are exposed to a broad range of litigation topics. I have found that one of the main perks of being at McCague Borlack specifically is that if there is an area you are interested in, all you have to do is find a lawyer who does that type of work, advise them of your interest, and they’ll find a way to get you actively involved in a file. I was interested in learning about professional liability so I spoke to a few lawyers in that practice group and one of them invited me to assist on one of their files.

"Any time you are given an opportunity to see your work put into action, you take it!"

After meeting with the lawyer and receiving a quick rundown of the file (we were defending one of the named defendants – an insurance broker), he asked me to take a stab at writing the first draft of the mediation brief. One of the thrilling and challenging parts of being a student is that you have to be able to quickly review a file and identify the parties, and get up to speed on the legal issues and what the firm’s position is on liability and damages – writing the mediation brief was no different. After finalizing the first draft, I submitted my work and got great feedback from the lawyer, which is always a relief when taking on a new task! I was then invited to attend at the mediation to observe, which I quickly accepted as I had yet to attend one this summer. Besides any time you are given an opportunity to see your work put into action, you take it!

We arrived at the reporting office and met with the client, who is an adjuster for an insurance company. After the mediator outlined the process, each party proceeded to state their positions and then everyone retreated into separate rooms to consult with their clients. Throughout the day, the mediator went back and forth between the rooms, speaking with the various parties (about their concerns and interests) and trying to facilitate an amicable settlement.

On its face, a mediation seems like a lot of sitting around and waiting. However, I found that if you use the time wisely you can learn a lot from observing and talking to the people involved. The lawyer who took me to the mediation was great. I did not feel like I was there to simply watch; he actively involved me in discussions with the client regarding our legal position and strategy for dealing with opposing counsel. Our client was also very friendly. We talked throughout the day and she answered many of my questions about the litigation process from the insurer’s perspective and I told her about my experience as a student – my first official act of client development!

One of the biggest advantages of being an MB summer student is having the opportunity to attend with lawyers at discoveries, mediations and court appearances (or as we refer to them, “field trips”). Not only do you get a feel for what it is like to be a litigator but you get to observe a variety of styles. After a few field trips, you quickly realize that there is a lot to being a lawyer that you do not learn in law school. While it is imperative to know the law and your file, you must also be able to persuasively communicate your objectives and effectively deal with a variety of (often conflicting) personalities.

Our file did not end up settling at mediation (the various parties couldn’t agree on liability apportionment) , and was thus deemed a “failed mediation”, however for me - the day was a great success!

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