In 1999, the emerging influence of mediation in the court system served as the impetus for NCCU School of Law to initiate the development of the first clinical program for training law students in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in North Carolina. Launched in the spring semester of 2000, the ADR Clinic provides future lawyers with hands-on experience in the art of mediation, often resulting in a faster, less expensive, and more satisfactory resolution to a legal issue for a client and the court system.
The ADR Clinic, a one-semester program, provides students with the 40-hour training required of superior court mediators and places them in district criminal court in Wake County to apply the collaborative, peacemaking, and listening skills they have learned. The ADR Clinic first matches students with experienced mediators from Carolina Dispute Settlement Services, a local community mediation center, to observe and co-mediate. Soon afterwards, students become the lead mediators. On average, each student handles at least six cases, which may include assault, communicating threats, larceny, trespassing, and domestic violence. Other legal cases that students may mediate include divorce cases, personal injury claims, and intellectual property. Students also learn other alternatives to litigation when they observe District Court Arbitration and attend Drug Treatment Court.
As cases continue to flood local courts, both clients and attorneys are driven to seek alternative methods for settling disputes. This continuing trend will likely impact the role of attorneys. As a result, the ADR Clinic exposes students to the expanding role of attorneys in defining problems in human rather than just legal terms, helping students to explore other forums within the court system for resolving conflicts. By the time students complete the ADR clinic, many often find that they are also pleased they have helped alleviate the stress that the rising backlog of cases is imposing on the local legal system.