students sitting at a group of tables, facing each other, in a deep discussion.

UB Law hosts regional mediation competition

On the heels of its popular intramural mediation competition last fall, UB School of Law raised its profile when it welcomed teams from law schools across the nation to O’Brian Hall for the regional rounds of the American Bar Association’s Representation in Mediation Competition.

It was the first time since 2017 that UB Law hosted the regional competition. A dozen teams competed in two rounds, March 2-3, with the two first-place teams—from Texas A&M University School of Law and Liberty University School of Law—going on to the national competition in April. 

The other schools competing included UC Law San Francisco, Fordham University School of Law and Stetson University School of Law. UB Law also fielded two teams, composed of third-year students Madeline Stoklosa ’24, Analiese Vasciannie ’24 and Brandon Small ’24; and second-year student Mark Bassett ’25

Dawn Skopinski, associate director for experiential education, directed the competition with major support from student co-directors Victoria Heist ’24 and Christian Soto ’24, along with Student Competition Chair Ciara Donohue ’24

group of people sitting at a large conference table, in a deep discussion.

The competitors took on roles as lawyers and clients, facing off before professional mediators and lawyers from the Western New York community who served as competition judges. Scoring was based on how effectively the attorney and client worked together in meeting the client’s interests. 

The student teams worked from the facts of two real-life cases and had access to the actual pleadings in those disputes. In one, a private jet service sought payment for services from Twitter, which refused on the grounds that the contracted protocols for scheduling flights hadn’t been followed. The other was a trademark dispute: a televised home renovation show argued that an HGTV show with a similar name, but an abrasive style was harming its brand. 

Soto says the craft of mediation, part of the growing field of alternative dispute resolution, develops soft skills that make for good practice in many areas of law. “You are basically facilitating a discussion between parties in dispute, working toward solutions that can help their own interests,” he says. “That includes exercising good negotiation skills, active listening, being able to pinpoint the interests that are behind the positions. Those are skills that lawyers use every day.” 

He says the mediators and lawyers who volunteered as judges had high praise for the overall quality of the competitors: “Some of them said you couldn’t tell they were students, they were so polished.”  

Steven Sugarman ’85, who runs UB Law’s mediation clinic, recruited the competition judges and coached the two UB Law teams that competed. He says the law school’s trifecta of in-house and national competitions—moot courts, trial and ADR competitions—reinforce the practice-ready skills that students develop over the course of their legal education. “Every day lawyers are negotiating and need to communicate effectively with people,” he says. “I love that we have these strong programs for sharpening all the tools our graduates will need.”