Applied Mediation Clinic prepares students for client work

Author: Amanda Gray

Clinical Law Center Sign

Notre Dame Law School’s Applied Mediation Clinic, led by Professor Michael Jenuwine, gives students practical experience both in and out of the classroom, preparing them to enter the legal profession and work with clients.

Nick Burandt, a third-year law student, said the clinic enabled him to hone the interpersonal client skills that he will need while working in a clerkship or a law firm after graduation.

The Applied Mediation Clinic is one of five clinics where Notre Dame Law students work on real cases under the supervision of experienced faculty members. Located inside the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center at 725 Howard Street in South Bend, the Applied Mediation Clinic serves local residents who are litigating civil matters such as child custody and contract disputes.

Burandt compared his clinic experience with preparing for an exam in a traditional class. He said that, like an exam, you need to be able to pull the actual problem from a set group of information. But he said working in the clinic is more intense, requiring patience and professionalism with the parties going through the mediation.

“You have to spot the issues, working with the facts you’re given,” Burandt said. “Usually, one of the mediators is drafting the agreement on the spot, too.”

Jenuwine envisioned the Applied Mediation Clinic to be a place for students to get formative practical experience to round out their legal education at Notre Dame.

“Students enrolled in Applied Mediation see clients at their worst, poised for battle, and confronting each other face to face, often for the first time since a case was filed in court,” Jenuwine said. “Students not only have to manage the tempers and personalities of the adverse parties and their attorneys, but they also must diagnose the conflict, open channels of effective communication, filter out inappropriate exchanges, facilitate possible settlement options, and then draft an agreement that satisfies everyone involved. The students must ensure that the agreement they draft is comprehensive, coherent, consistent with applicable law, and likely to be approved by the judge presiding over the litigation.”

Burandt said Jenuwine is a great instructor who comes to the clinic with a wealth of practical knowledge.

“He has so much experience doing this,” Burandt said. “He’s seen every type of case possible.”

The students mediate domestic relations cases as well as civil cases in both Indiana and Southwestern Michigan. For some of the cases, the students must take the additional step and appear in court with the parties to read the mediation agreement into the record.

“I have to admit, I was a little nervous to read in front of a judge, but it was great,” Burandt said. “Any experience in front of a judge is good experience.”

A portion of the coursework in the Applied Mediation Clinic has been approved by the Indiana Supreme Court as satisfying the 40-hour domestic relations mediation training requirement to be placed on the statewide registry of approved mediators. Some students have used that credential in other states, receiving reciprocity for registry as mediators in a variety of other jurisdictions. Jenuwine is on both the civil and domestic relations mediator registry in Indiana and Michigan, and has served as a mediation trainer for law students, lawyers, and judges since 2003.