By Manoranjitha Reddy Ani LL.M. ’24

The earliest memories of my childhood are tinged with the idea and practice of ‘law.’ Having witnessed the journey of two litigators (my grandfather and father) throughout my life, I had a perception that litigation is perhaps the best form of dispute resolution, and I did not to explore the alternate ways to resolve a dispute.

While pursuing my LL.M., I attended the ADR Night hosted by the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program, where I learned about the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP) and what it entails. I was intrigued and thought I’d try my hand at mediation. As an international student, I was always conscious of whether I’d ‘fit in’, but HMP is extremely diverse, the recruiting process is transparent, and it recruits people committed to serving the community. It is a student-led organization where the students manage the whole process from recruitment to training, which focuses on building a community. I was elated when I was selected for the training.

I underwent basic training in the Fall of 2023. The training was quite well structured, intense and fun-filled, every session was interactive and informative. We were provided feedback at the end of every session which helped us ameliorate our skills for the next role play. HMP mainly teaches you ways in which one can effectively facilitate conversations between two parties to a dispute by using core skills like active listening, empathy, and neutrality. They focus on building skills required for mediation and tell you how mediation differs from formal adjudication; how one doesn’t need to play the role of a judge to help parties to a dispute reach an amicable settlement. I was intrigued by this method and wanted to explore it further, so pursuant to the training, I started observing in small claims and experienced the practical aspect of it. Subsequently, I also served on the Board of HMP and got to refine the skills I learned through co-teaching modules, coaching role plays and providing feedback during the Spring 2024 Training.

HMP has also opened various doors for me as I was introduced to the Harvard Negotiators Project where I got to work and research about by-standers intervention in hate crimes and to the Dispute System Design Clinic (DSD Clinic), which is part of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP).

In the DSD clinic, I worked on the Brazilian National Council of Justice project during the Spring of 2024. This project involved viewing mediation from a different lens as it was a different form of mediation where the basic skills required were similar to facilitative mediation. The skills acquired through the basic training at HMP alongside additional research about best practices in mediation helped me co-design a Training Manual for judges of Brazil to mediate multi-party land disputes. At DSD Clinic, I learned additional skills like mapping the stakeholders, drafting an interview protocol, conducting interviews and designing work products using the different designing systems. The best part about HMP and HNMCP is that you are guided by your clinical instructors and staff at every step of the project and training.

To reflect on the 9 months I spent in law school, I am forever indebted to the staff of HMP and to my clinical instructors who have constantly supported me throughout the year. The exposure I got at HMP and HNMCP is unparalleled, and I interacted with the best set of peers from around the world. I will certainly miss the fifth floor of Pound Hall (HMP and HNMCP clinical space) where I spent most of my Spring semester. To those upcoming LL.M students who are interested in ADR and particularly mediation, I’d recommend you apply to HMP during the Fall semester as it gives you more time with HMP, and you will be able to mediate a greater number of cases. I intend to use the skills and theoretical knowledge acquired at HMP and HNMCP to mediate more cases in the future alongside litigating in the courts of India.

Filed in: Clinical Student Voices

Tags: Class of 2024, Harvard Dispute Systems Design Clinic, Harvard Mediation Program, Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

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