This post collects and summarizes the posts in the Real Practice Systems Project. I began by focusing on mediation systems, which are the combination of factors affecting what mediators do before, during, and after mediation sessions. These systems include their routine procedures and strategies for dealing with recurring challenging situations. Practitioners develop systems for other repeated tasks such as advocacy in mediation, negotiation, or a wide range of other functions. So I generically refer to this as Real Practice Systems, not limited to mediation.
They grow out of my article in the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Real Mediation Systems to Help Parties and Mediators Achieve Their Goals. The following short pieces are adapted from and/or grow out of that article.
Ten Real Mediation Systems: This summarizes accounts of ten mediators’ mediation systems – how we handle continuing streams of mediations. It uses these accounts like data in a qualitative study. It describes mediators’ personal histories, values, goals, motivations, knowledge, and skills as well as our particular categories of cases, parties, and behavior patterns. These factors provide the basis for routine procedures before and during mediation sessions and strategies for dealing with recurring challenges. Traditional mediation theories influence mediators’ thoughts and actions to some extent – along with many other factors.
Real Practice Systems Project Menu of Mediation Checklists.: The checklists are practical manifestations of Real Practice System theory, illustrating that each mediator inevitably has a unique practice system based on numerous factors that are not addressed in traditional mediation theories. Mediators could perform almost any of the tasks in the checklists regardless of their views about various mediation models or theories.
Under RPS theory, mediators develop categories of cases, parties, and behavior patterns that lead them to design routine procedures and strategies for dealing with recurring challenges before, during, and after mediation sessions. Accordingly, the checklists address (1) general information that mediators provide on websites and/or other materials, (2) compliance with ethical requirements, (3) tasks before mediation sessions, (4) tasks during mediation sessions, and (5) reflection and improvement of techniques.
The checklists are extensive but not exhaustive. Mediators wouldn’t do all of the things in the checklists. Instead, they should help mediators decide what to do in any specific case or in their practice generally. Mediators can use these checklists to tailor their individual checklists reflecting their values, practice philosophies, and characteristics of their cases and clients. They may modify or omit some items and add others when developing their own checklists.
Practitioners Tell Why Real Practice System Checklists Are So Useful: Following the rave reviews for the Menu of Mediation Checklists, I asked 14 practitioners to describe how they might use them. This article summarizes their ideas. It illustrates how the checklists can help mediators carefully design their unique practice systems, starting from providing general information about their practice to engaging in self-assessments after cases – and everything in between.
Charlie Irvine’s Challenge to Mediators to Describe Your Mediation System: Charlie Irvine is the course leader of the University of Strathclyde’s (Scotland) MSc/LLM in Mediation and Conflict Resolution and the director of the Strathclyde Mediation Clinic. He challenged his students to write descriptions of their mediation systems. He described his experience doing so, writing, “The more I drilled down into what actually happens [in my cases], the more there was to say. … [T]he act of attempting to pin it down flagged up patterns across cases, helping me to stand back and see the bigger picture.”
The Critical Importance of Pre-Session Preparation in Mediation: This describes why pre-session preparation is so important, why we should use the term “pre-session” instead of “pre-mediation,” and why faculty and trainers teaching mediation should cover pre-session preparation.
Using Real Mediation Systems Resources in Practice: This describes how mediators can use ideas and materials from the Real Mediation Systems Project to better understand and improve their own mediation approaches. Trainers and mediation program administrators can use this to help mediators in their programs.
How The Real Mediation Systems Project Can Help Improve Mediation Quality: The Project is intended to encourage practitioners to be more conscious and intentional about their ideas and mediation practices. Helping parties and lawyers prepare before mediation sessions should help the parties and mediators achieve their goals as the parties and lawyers are more likely to advocate effectively and be satisfied with the process and outcome. This is especially important considering the limited efficacy of ethical, legal, and theoretical standards in protecting parties’ interests.
Technology in Real Practice Systems. This post uses the RPS mediation checklists to illustrate practitioners’ great reliance on technology.
Real Lawyering Practice Systems. Most of the pieces in the RPS Project have focused on mediation. The theory is not limited to mediation, and this post applies it to lawyering.
Resources for Using Real Systems Materials in Teaching: This describes how faculty can use ideas and materials from the Real Mediation Systems Project to help students get realistic understandings of practice. Although the project generally focuses on the systems that mediators develop and use, it can be adapted to understand the perspectives of lawyers acting as advocates in mediation, negotiators, and in legal practice generally. In addition to requiring or recommending that students read pieces in this series, faculty could assign students to write papers such as (a) a Stone Soup interview of a practitioner, (b) a description of students’ actual system in simulated or real case(s) in their courses, or (c) a description of students’ desired system after they graduate. This post includes templates for assignments that faculty could tailor to their courses.
More Ways to Help Students Understand Dispute Resolution Practice: This post includes various assignments that faculty can use to help students better understand mediation, advocacy in mediation, negotiation, or other regular procedures. Faculty might assign students to read publications in this project and/or write papers. This post includes templates of assignments that faculty can tailor to fit their educational goals.
Law Students Can Use Portfolios to Plan Their Practice Systems: This post describes how law schools can help students create their own definitions of success by using Real Practice System self-assessments to guide them in developing individualized portfolios. Portfolios identify students’ learning objectives and experiences designed to achieve them. They may include a variety of elements such as writing samples, video recordings, grades, faculty evaluations, clinical course journals, and extracurricular experiences.
Real Practice Systems Project Annotated Bibliography: This bibliography provides practical and theoretical background of Real Practice System (RPS) theory. It is a mosaic of my publications about this theory as well as its precursors and related issues. It addresses (1) an overview of RPS theory, (2) critiques of traditional dispute resolution theories, (3) promotion of party decision-making, (4) litigation interest and risk assessment, (5) preparation for mediation sessions, (6) technology systems, (7) planned early dispute resolution, (8) dispute system design, (9) applications in court systems, and (10) applications in legal education. Most of the entries are short blog posts and articles, though it also includes law review articles and books. There are links for the entries, so you can access them with one or two clicks.
Take a look.