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  • April 28, 2022

    A Conversation with the Dispute Resolution Section Student Liaisons

    Marquette University Law School has developed one of the top-20 dispute resolution programs in the country. Two students from this program have joined the Dispute Resolution Section Board as student liaisons this academic year. Mary L. Ferwerda introduces the program and the students.

    Mary L. Ferwerda

    In fall 2021, two students from Marquette University Law School's Dispute Resolution Program, Mishkat "Mishi" Torania (3L) and Sarah Bondar (1L), joined the Dispute Resolution Section Board as student liaisons this academic year.

    Mary Ferwerda headshot Mary Ferwerda, Marquette 2011, is executive director of the Milwaukee Justice Center, the civil legal aid self-help center in Milwaukee County. She is co-creator of the Parenting Conference Dispute Resolution Program in partnership with Milwaukee County Child Support Services.

    Mishi is a 25-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim. She is a 3L and is pursuing the ADR Certificate. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her two cats or riding her bright green motorcycle.

    Sarah is a 34-year-old nontraditional student, a mom of two teen daughters, and a newlywed (she got married the first week of classes in August 2021). She is a current litigation paralegal at Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik, S.C. Previously, she was a law enforcement officer and 911 dispatcher in Waukesha County, trained to assist women and families in domestic violence situations. Sarah also owns her own life coaching business, developing women into confident leaders at every stage of life. She is an avid coffee drinker, bourbon snob, and a horse lady.

    What drew you to participate in Marquette's Dispute Resolution Program?

    Sarah: The ADR Certificate really intrigues me. I feel that mediation is the new way of settling matters. Mediation and ADR are going to be the top skills for attorneys to possess. I have been someone who looks for the alternative, more amicable way, of doing things, so I believe ADR suits me.

    Mishi: I learned of the Dispute Resolution Society school organization and decided to participate in an intramural competition to get out of my comfort zone. Through competitions hosted by the Dispute Resolution Society, I decided to pursue the ADR Certificate.

    Tell us more about the Dispute Resolution Program at Marquette Law School.

    Mishi: To pursue the ADR Certificate, there are a variety of classes, experiential requirements, and a research paper as requirements. Some of these classes include Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation Advocacy, Negotiation Workshop, and Interviewing and Counseling.

    Mishi Torania headshot

    Mishi Torania is a 3L at Marquette University Law School and a student liaison to the State Bar of Wisconsin Dispute Resolution Section.

    How can section members be involved with the Dispute Resolution Program?

    Sarah: I think the biggest way that section members can be involved is to serve as speakers at events or judges at the various competitions. These programs are sometimes in person and sometimes over Zoom, sometimes in the evening, sometimes at noon. There is definite flexibility with involvement.

    What have been some interesting lessons you have learned from your experience with the program?

    Mishi: I have learned that skills used in ADR generally make you a better lawyer (and oftentimes, person) overall. Also, different people and different communities have different approaches to ADR.

    Sarah: That "it depends" is almost always the answer! And, that it is important to have things outside of law school that you are passionate about.

    How has studying ADR shaped how you view the legal system and the law?

    Sarah: I believe that ADR is the up-and-coming way of resolving a lot of cases. I believe that (especially with the backlog in the courts system), any civil case is going to be pushed to mediation first to try and reach a settlement.

    Mishi: It pushes you away from the adversarial system and echoes what many community-focused cultures have utilized. It provides for a valuable, alternative – and at times, interconnected – route that may be more appropriate or desirable in certain conflicts.

    What has the pandemic and related closures meant for your experiences in ADR?

    Mishi: Pandemic closures have not been too much of a deterrent. They have been an opportunity to explore remote mediations and other experiences. I think remote ADR options will be around for a while and can be incorporated into future practice as a way to increase accessibility.

    Sarah: In some ways, the pandemic has given us surprising benefits: it has taught us how to do many things we never thought possible in the beginning. It has opened doors for attorneys to conduct mediation, hearings, and client meetings in ways that we never thought possible. I know it has helped me: I am able to continue to work part time while being in law school full time because of the ability to work remotely.

    Sarah Bondar headshot

    Sarah Bondar is a 1L at Marquette University Law School and a State Bar Dispute Resolution Section student liaison.

    As the future of the profession, what are your hopes?

    Sarah: I hope that we are able to continue to evolve and use technology to our advantage, instead of seeing it as a hinderance. I am grateful for the opportunity to be in law school, to be here with you all, and to be where I am in my life. Many people who grew up like I did would have given up a long time ago, but I only continue to persevere.

    Mishi: I hope for the field to continue to evolve as new generations and diverse communities contribute to the field. ADR is a fascinating and valuable field, but it is relatively new and has its limitations. I hope to see it develop in a way in which is serves all people who seek to utilize it in resolving their conflicts. Further, I hope to see more opportunities for young people to get involved and to share their own perspectives.

    I would like to thank the Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar in allowing us this opportunity and for including us in the discussion. It is great to learn from those actively involved in the field. I'm excited to see what the future of ADR holds for us all.

    Mentors and Volunteers are Always Needed

    Thank you, Mishi and Sarah, for sharing your experiences and insights with us. We wish you the best in your studies and beyond.

    Section Members: Participating as a judge or engaging with students on a panel is an excellent way to share your passion for dispute resolution and its role in the justice system. Allowing students to learn from your expertise give them an opportunity to mold their own approaches and styles in dispute resolution.

    For more information and to become involved with Marquette Law School's Dispute Resolution Program as a judge for competitions or to serve on a speakers' panel, contact me at mary.ferwerda@wicourts.gov.

    This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin's Dispute Resolution Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Dispute Resolution Section web pages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.





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    Dispute Resolution Section Blog is published by the State Bar of Wisconsin; blog posts are written by section members. To contribute to this blog, contact Lisa Derr and review Author Submission Guidelines. Learn more about the Dispute Resolution Section or become a member.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

    © 2022 State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.

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