Our daughter graduated from college last month and presently has her head buried in LSAT study documents. Watching her, I am impressed by what this newest generation of law students and future lawyers has to offer our proud profession. I recall in the 1980’s when I was considering law school, the thought of actually studying for the LSAT meant something so different than what it means today. Sure, I purchased a book with some past tests and spent a few hours looking it over before the appointed test date arrived. Yet, it never dawned on me to treat test preparation as a job, committed to truly understanding every type of question I would face. I’m not to proud to say that my biggest concern at the time was whether the test was going to ruin an entire day or just part of the day. Little did I know at the time that it was going to launch such a satisfying career that has so far spanned three decades. So much for one afternoon!
Now, I listen to my daughter and her friends compare potential law schools. The fervently discuss the pros and cons of class size, faculty to student ratios, and the number of special clinics offered by each school. Their interests and ambitions are broader and more engaging than what was presented to us in the late 80’s show LA Law. The students today debate how best to truly make a difference in society; not just how to make a buck. It is refreshing. It is inspiring. It makes me think that this next generation of law student is going to move the practice of law forward in positive ways never imagined before.
As mediators, we have the opportunity to see the current practice of law from a vantage point above the actual trenches of litigation. We have seen well-prepared, fierce advocates. We have seen harried, overworked lawyers. We have seen green lawyers and grey-hairs. We get to hear business owners talk about what it is like to be on the wrong side of litigation and employees who are deeply affected by how they have been treated. Every situation, each representation, and every client is an important part of the fabric of “the law.” It is into this complex and layered system that the newest law students are venturing. It will be a journey of learning, anxiety, triumphs and set backs. It is also our hope that some of these students of law set their sights on improving all aspects of litigation, including how to best represent clients in mediation. Why? Because it is the mediation process where everyone is important and one of the few parts of litigation where everyone can shake hands and be a winner at the end of the day. Be prepared, bring your passion, present your strongest case, advocate for your client the best you know how. When your client concludes the mediation feeling satisfied, you know you are a winner and you have done your job well. It is the best of feelings and makes us better lawyers and better people.