From February 8 to 13 a group of four Bar-Ilan University law students will travel to Paris to try to repeat the success of last year’s delegation, which came in second in a field of 64 teams from across the globe in the International Chamber of Commerce’s mediation competition.

The purpose of the competition is to impart in students the deft mediation skills needed to represent in the most effective way possible clients involved in commercial disputes. Mediation is a method of conflict management and resolution.

It will be the eighth year that Bar-Ilan is participating.

Coach Hagit Shaked, who has been working with the four students over the past several months, has extensive experience in mediation practice and teaches international commercial mediation at Bar-Ilan. Her job has been to impart the skills necessary for them to present their side clearly and articulately, and to fervently defend their clients’ interests.

At the same time, Shaked has tried to create a congenial atmosphere of cooperation that allows the students to deeply penetrate the issues being disputed in order to find creative solutions that will enable the sides to reach an agreement that reflects mutual interests.

Mediation, she explained, is about both sides being the winner. It is not about a winner and a loser.

Shaked also said the program was becoming more important since alternative dispute resolution processes were becoming an integral part of the global and Israeli legal systems.

The four team members were selected from a competitive pool of 30 candidates.

One, Mai Shebta, has a unique view of the advantages of mediation and conflict management, having grown up in the 50-family coexistence village of Neve Shalom, about half-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Shebta said she joined the team to build her skills for helping with human rights issues. She also works at a mediation clinic assisting foreign workers to learn their rights. She hopes that some of the skills she learns will help make her a voice for coexistence.

“My motto is that enemies are only people who haven’t had the chance to meet the other side,” she said.

According to team member David Adler, “Preparing for the mediation competition has taught me many vital skills that are not necessarily focused on in law school, such as the power of a win-win situation, active listening and negotiation techniques.”

The team has also consulted – and had an intensive, week-long training session in early January – with Marquette University Prof.

Andrea Schneider, one of the founders of the American Bar Association’s mediation competition.

During Schneider’s visit, the team built its strategy for handling cases and sharpened the strong bonding system necessary for this kind of a competition. The height of the intense “boot camp” week was a full-fledged mediation rehearsal pitting the four team members against each other.

In a rehearsal, Shebta and Elik Moshkowits represented “Company A,” which distributed a life-saving medical product developed by “Company B,” represented by Adler and Eitan Mor..

The trust between the two sides was breached when Company B terminated their contract. Company A lodged two claims against Company B for 1) terminating the contract and 2) “meddling” in the resignation of Company A’s CEO.

Though both sides expressed interest in restoring their working relationship, Company A argued that it was entitled to compensation from Company B.

Company B asserted that the contract had been terminated due to declining sales.

Schneider and other staff members critiqued the teams, suggesting that they more dramatically emphasize the danger of high litigation costs, emote more and skip faster to key arguments regardless of their placement on the agenda.

Schneider said she visits Israel several times a year, once leading a trip of non- Jewish law students. When she was offered an opportunity to help coach the team and get to visit an additional time, it was a “no-brainer.”

She said the Israeli team had a lot of the same issues and strengths of American law students she has observed, but added that it was a “very good team with diverse backgrounds and experiences, which provides diversity in responding to problems and challenges.”

Bar-Ilan’s Shaked said the program received critical support and guidance from the dean of the university’s Faculty of Law, Prof. Shahar Lifshitz, and from Prof. Michal Alberstein, director of Bar-Ilan’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Conflict Management and Negotiation.

She opined that with all the backing the program had received, Bar-Ilan has the most advanced program in conflict management in Israel and is a true leader in the field.

“Bar-Ilan’s finish in second place last year places the university in very high regard, especially considering that delegations from such prestigious universities as Harvard, Cornell and Oxford took part,” Shaked said. “Today, the International Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization for conflict resolution, and this is a golden opportunity for our students and faculty to make connections that can lead to future cooperation with the best universities in the world.”

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