Leah Leone ’12 and Valoree Hanson ’12 of North Carolina Central University School of Law took first and second place, respectively, in the Jeffry S. Abrams National Mediator Competition, held November 10 – 12, 2011, at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas. Sponsored by Jeffry Abrams, an accomplished Houston mediator, the competition is one of the only contests in the country where students are judged on their mediation skills. Ms. Leone and Ms. Hanson participated in five rounds of mediation over two days, acting as mediators in the Law Center’s Tom Newhouse Mediation Advocacy Competition. They prevailed over a field that included student mediators from Cardozo Law, UC-Hastings, Seton Hall, Thurgood Marshall, Quinnipiac and others.
The final round of the competition was judged by Mr. Abrams, for whom the national competition is named, the Honorable Frank G. Evans, known as the father of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Texas, and Professor Emeritus Tom Newhouse, for whom the mediation advocacy competition is named.
For her first place finish, Ms. Leone won the Champion Mediator trophy and the Frank Evans Mediator Scholarship award, worth $2000. “It was a great experience,” she said. “It was an opportunity to combine preparation and my training, but I also had to rely on my own sense of who I am, to trust myself and what I think of as my strengths. The results affirmed that mediation is something on which I should focus my talents. Normally, you associate competition with tension and stress, but the Abrams Competition was enriching. The people, their professionalism and collegiality, made it great fun.”
Ms. Hanson took home the Finalist Mediator trophy and the Jeffry S. Abrams Mediator Scholarship Award, worth $500. “The learning curve was exponential. I came away from the competition a much better mediator than I was when we landed in Houston. It would have taken months to gain the experience, the learning, and the feedback that I acquired in the condensed time frame of the competition environment. I am very grateful to all of the people who worked so hard to put on the competition and to the lawyers and mediators who judged it.”
The students were coached by the law school’s own accomplished mediator, Professor Mark W. Morris, Director of the Dispute Resolution Institute and a former member of the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission. “Placing first in any national competition is an achievement. Taking first and second place is just extraordinary. The secret to my coaching success is great students,” he explained. “I am extremely proud of Ms. Leone and Ms. Hanson for what they have done and for the way they represented our law school and the Dispute Resolution Institute, and I look forward to defending the title next year.”
Dean Raymond C. Pierce congratulated all who were involved. “This speaks highly of the students, the coaches, the Dispute Resolution Institute, and the School of Law.”