Maastricht Mediation Clinic

Mediation clinic

Objectives
The Maastricht Mediation Clinic’s objectives are:

  • to teach select students practical dispute resolution techniques and mediation skills
  • to provide students with the opportunity to mediate actual disputes involving real clients to practice said skills
  • to help assist the Maastricht community at large by offering pro bono mediation sessions

21st century skills
There is increasing awareness amongst the academic community about how university degrees must equip students of today, not only with substantive knowledge, but also with soft skills (or what some have termed '21st century skills').

Such skills include, but are not limited to: creative thinking, active listening, empathetic understanding, perspective taking, stakeholder assessment, conflict resolution, and so on. A formal classroom environment, while conducive to learning about theories, is not particularly well suited for the real life application of said theories or the attainment of these 21st century skills.

In short, the dynamism of the real world cannot be scripted nor emulated within the confines of a classroom, which calls upon a different type of a learning environment all together. This brings us to the issue of clinical education.

Clinical education
All ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law schools in the US are required to establish clinical education programs that 'offer live-client or other real-life practice' experience. While Maastricht University prides itself in our problem based learning method and our highly competitive moot court programmes, they generally deal in hypotheticals.

The Maastricht Mediation Clinic, on the other hand, is the only institution that offers a clinical education that is on par with the clinical education being offered in the US law schools. This entails students actually becoming mediators-in-training to conduct actual mediations with the guidance of professional mediators (thanks to our partnership with Nollen Kneepkens and their generosity).

Not only does the clinic offer hands-on experience for students to mediate actual cases, but through the professional mentorship offered by Nollen Kneepkens, the clinic promotes technical and moral apprenticeship that encourages the students to develop practical wisdom and the aforementioned 21st century skills. 

Mediation & conflict resolution
The textbook definition of mediation offered by 'The Handbook of Dispute Resolution' published by the Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, is 'a process in which a third party neutral, the mediator, assists disputing parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution.'

While some might perceive mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as measures that lack the bite of the law and litigation, it is a growing sector that the European Union is currently pursuing in many fields (e.g. consumer dispute resolution, administrative matters, etc.).

It is thus very likely that in the next 5-10 years, Maastricht University graduates will have to deal, whether at a personal or at a professional level, with one type of ADR or another. By gaining exposure to this growing field now, the select students will not only have a leg up relative to their colleagues, but more importantly, they will learn the necessary skills to effectively manage disputes and conflicts.

Ultimately, giving more responsibility to students, not only to resolve conflicts, but to manage clients and their expectations, is a type of empowerment that simply cannot be replicated in classrooms or exercises dealing with mere hypotheticals.

In sum, the MMC, in partnership with Nollen Kneepkens, offers a unique, unparalleled learning experience, and while we cannot guarantee that the students will become better human beings through their participation in the clinic, we sure will do our best – at the very least – to give it a try.

Current team composition
Directors: Mark Kawakami & Catalina Goanta
Professional Mediators: Sylvia Nollen & Ernest Kneepkens
Student Mediators-in-Training: Violette Wolters, Daphne Hof & Irma Muhović

Contact information
mark.kawakami[at]maastrichtuniversity[dot]nl