NYLS Finishes Third in Statewide Mediation Tournament

Members of NYLS’s Dispute Resolution Team placed third in the New York State Bar Association’s Inaugural Mediation Tournament, held March 22 and 23 at the New York International Arbitration Center.

Monika Dziewa 2L, Shervica Gonzalez 2L Evening, and Kelsey Miller 3L competed in three preliminary rounds and one final round, coached by Courtney Deblois 3L, Brian Grinberg 3L, and Victoria Walker 3L.

Six NYLS students who belong to the Dispute Resolution Team

Left to right: Dispute Resolution Team members Courtney Deblois 3L, Kelsey Miller 3L, Monika Dziewa 2L, Shervica Gonzalez 2L Evening, Victoria Walker 3L, and Brian Grinberg 3L

Each school’s team of three students included a mediator, advocate, and client (either the claimant or the respondent), with students changing roles in each round of the tournament. To avoid a conflict of interest, the student who played the mediator role was assigned to a different round of competition than the advocate-client pair.

Though the NYLS team worked hard to prep, the nature of the competition rewarded quick thinking and adaptability: Until an hour before each round, many confidential facts related to the fact pattern were kept sealed. Mediators weren’t privy to these details regardless, but advocates and clients had to quickly internalize the information and form a strategy shortly before their round. In addition, teams weren’t aware which side of the fact pattern—the claimant’s or the respondent’s—they would have to portray until just days before the event.

“We all had a phenomenal time, and it was a great learning experience,” said Miller. “Though we had strategies going into each round, the fact that we didn’t get the confidentials until an hour before each round pushed and challenged us.”

The fact patterns varied significantly. The first round involved a joint venture to build a lower Manhattan hotel and a dispute that arose between the two investors after the death of the site’s property owner. The second round centered on a dispute between a pair of siblings over the ownership of their family’s upstate New York dairy farm. The third round was a contentious disagreement between a fashion model and the model’s agency. Finally, the last round—featuring the final four teams—focused on the estate of an individual who had undergone a commitment ceremony but was not formally married and whose partner and sibling were sparring over the individual’s assets.

Throughout the two-day competition, the NYLS team impressed the judges—a distinguished panel that included federal and state judges, as well as professional mediators. The judges praised NYLS’s command of the facts, client communication skills, and professional demeanors.

The team thanked Professor Kris Franklin and Distinguished Professor F. Peter Phillips ’87, who serve as Faculty Advisors to the team, as well as Adjunct Professor Danielle Shalov, who teaches NYLS’s Mediation Clinic, for their support.