Ask An Expert, CDRC 2018 Edition: Lisa El Imshati

When did you first hear about the CDRC event?

The first time I heard about the CDRC was when I participated at the ICC. I had joined as a member of my university’s elective course of mediation to represent the University of Vienna in Paris. ICC was one of the best experiences and I wanted to help provide this unique feeling to those at CDRC. I was given the opportunity to be a CDRC volunteer and it was one of the best weeks of my life.

One memory I treasure most, happened on the last day of the preliminary rounds. Suddenly we were notified that one of the participants was not feeling all too well. We took her to the ER Room. She was very pale and shivering. She told me that she was about to negotiate but just couldn’t.

I told her that I knew how she felt and that I was so nervous before the negotiations back at ICC. I told her that I was proud for all that she had achieved so far, for all the preparation she did how courageous she was to even apply and come to this competition in the first place. Then I left the room. Soon, I was told that we could not continue with the competition unless she would participate. I went back to the room and asked her whether she would and after a few minutes, she did.

Until this day I don’t know whether any of the words I said to her were helpful, whether it was the herbal tea or the Mozart chocolate we gave her, but in the end I was told by one of the experts that it was one of the best negotiations they had ever seen. I couldn’t help but smile. This is exactly what I came to do as a volunteer; make this one of the best experiences of the participant’s lives.

As a law student, what sparked your interest in mediation?

My interest in mediation started a long time ago, as a peer mediator in school. Back then, I thought it was a technique to help children get along. It was not until I applied for my university’s  mediation course and entered the ICC competition that I began to realize how wrong I was. Mediation may be the solution to disputes ranging from within the family to within international corporate groups.

Mediation opens so many possibilities for creative solutions, and more than that, it lays the ground work for future collaborations. In a court case, I believe that even the “winner” actually isn’t a winner. What you want is not necessarily what you need and if you sat down with your opposite and negotiated on an interest-based level, you might end up with more than you could have asked for in a court case.

Many students have a general curiosity concerning mediation and ADR. Unfortunately, most students think that mediation is not for commercial issues or legal disputes because nobody has shown them what mediation can do. I think more students would be interested if they discovered it’s potential.

Is consensual dispute resolution taught in your law school?

There is an elective course on mediation in my law school. Various courses teach you the basics of mediation and the relevance it has in your jurisdiction. Sadly, many students graduate without ever having heard of mediation.

However, information events on moot courts could show students how present and wide-spread mediation actually is. Moot courts provide the most realistic insight to the life of a young lawyer. You have the possibility to prove what you can do and use what you have learned in theory. And then, you can learn from experts and receive their feedback. This is a unique opportunity.

Have you seen a cultural shift among your fellow students and previous generations of legal professionals practicing ADR?

I feel that young lawyers are more likely to choose mediation or arbitration over classic litigation processes. Even though Austria is a very litigation-focused country, I think that young lawyers will shift this tradition as they will consider more ADR options. I believe that ADR will become more popular and clients will expect their lawyers to have knowledge in this field.

A lawyer should know what the client actually needs and build their strategy based on those needs. Mediation training allows you to establish creative solutions and ensure the best outcome for your client. Mediation sheds light on the common interest of two parties, rather than their differences. This particular approach may lead disputing parties away from a “messy” court battle, loss of money, time, energy and most importantly the loss of a future collaboration on both sides, to an open negotiation. I consider this a soft skill every lawyer should have.

Knowing different types of dispute resolution extends your career opportunities enormously. You are more flexible and when you are young, this is a great advantage. Employers look for employees who are flexible. A lawyer would presumably prefer an associate they can entrust with an arbitration case as well as a litigation case. Particularly international commercial issues will require a certain know-how concerning ADR. In the end, being a lawyer is being a service provider: the better and diversified your offer is, the better.

What have you taken away from attending events such as the CDRC competition?

There is no comparable experience. Whether you perform as a negotiator or as a mediator, within the 90 minutes of a session, you are no longer a student. You are an entrepreneur, whose company is at stake; a lawyer, defending your client; or a mediator in-between two arguing parties. Moot courts such as the CDRC can provide you with a unique insight on your skills and abilities and you will receive expert feedback on your individual performance, allowing you to improve and learn for a lifetime. No matter what ranking you achieve, the moment you sit down at the negotiation table, you are a winner.

Before I attended the ICC, I was not very confident about my skills, but the moment I sat down at the negotiation table, I felt like I was ready and for the first time, I felt like I was capable of being a lawyer. I cannot put into words how much the ICC and the CDRC have enriched my life. The CDRC is more than a competition. It is an opportunity to enhance your skills and knowledge on a professional and personal level. It is a possibility to be greater than you thought you would be and learn from the best of the best.

Interview by Natasha Mellersh.

Lisa El Imshati is a law student at the University of Vienna. She has decided to dedicate her legal career to human rights on an international level. She recently started her work at ELSA, European Law Students Association and Amnesty International. She speaks four languages and has prior experience as a peer mediator. She has also participated in the 13th ICC Mediation competition in Paris.

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