Certificate in Dispute Resolution

The Dispute Resolution Institute (DRI) offers a comprehensive curriculum in the field of dispute resolution, open to all NCCU Law students. Students who complete at least ten DRI course credits are eligible to receive a Certificate In Dispute Resolution, or an Advanced Certificate in Dispute Resolution. Requirement include:

  • Students must be in good academic standing to apply to the Certificate Program
  • The Certificate requires a minimum of ten hours of academic credit in DRI related courses, which must include at least one course in each of the “core” areas offered every Fall and Spring: Core areas are: Arbitration, Mediation, and Negotiation.
  • Students are encouraged to complete and submit their Certificate application as early as possible in their law school career. Applications must be received by October 31 of the third year in order to be eligible. An early application will ensure that you receive notice of new courses, programs and opportunities such as DRI courses in future Study Abroad programs and the Summer Institute.
  • Recommended Sequencing:  We recommend that students seeking the Certificate take a DRI course in the Summer after their first year, if possible. Because negotiation theory and skills are at the heart of all dispute resolution, we recommend taking Negotiation as soon as possible , ideally in the Fall of the student’s second year. Because it is a prerequisite for the ADR Clinic, students are encouraged to take Mediation in their second year, as well.

NB: Students may not take both Superior Court Mediation and Mediation for credit.

Note: Students do not have to be admitted to the Certificate Program to take courses offered under the auspices of the DRI.


Core Courses

Arbitration (Fall/Spring)

2 credit hours

This course examines the arbitration process, the professional role and responsibility of the arbitrator, and the legal constraints on the arbitration process, such as issues of enforceability and the limitations on appealing or challenging the arbitrator’s decision. We will survey the variety of contexts in which arbitration is employed in today’s legal landscape and examine the main features of the arbitration process, including filing claims, selecting arbitrators, conducting limited discovery, and handling other challenges within a process to which traditional rules of evidence and procedure do not apply.

Mediation (Fall/Spring)

2 credit hours

This course will focus on the theory and practice of mediation, including an in-depth look at transformative, facilitative, directive-evaluative, and narrative approaches to mediation. North Carolina’s court-annexed mediation programs, Dispute Resolution Commission rules, and Professional Standards for Mediators will also be featured.


Superior Court Mediation – Evening (Summer only)

2 credit hours

This course covers substantially the same content as Superior Court Mediation – Day, but it is taught over a five-week period as part of the Evening Program’s regular Summer Session. The longer format and greater instruction time allow for additional readings and out-of-class assignments.

Negotiation (Fall/Spring)

2 credit hours

Negotiation theory and skills will be taught through a hands-on, interactive course that employs role-plays and simulation exercises. Although the theory and skills are of general application, this course emphasizes negotiating and settling litigated claims and the lawyer’s role as advocate within that setting. Students will also be prepared to participate in the ABA Negotiation Competition that takes place each fall semester.

Elective Courses

The balance of hours necessary for the Certificate may be earned in following electives:

ADR Clinic

2 credit hours

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) encompasses processes available to disputants to address conflict outside of litigation. The ADR Clinic is an opportunity for students to learn about, observe, and participate in these various processes. The Clinic will equip students to function effectively in a spectrum of legal disputes and to apply theoretical frameworks in the context of real-world issues and complexities. This course consists of a classroom component that meets during the semester, and a practicum in which students mediate district court criminal cases, Medicaid appeals in the Office of Administrative Hearings, and participate in other ADR related processes and activities.

Students interested in taking this course should read “What Students Need to Know About the ADR Clinic,” which is posted on the DRI TWEN page.

Prerequisites:  Students must have completed one of the following to register for ADR Clinic:

  • Mediation (2 ),
  • Superior Court Mediation – Day (1)
  • Superior Court Mediation – Evening (2)
  • or an equivalent course at another law school. Alternatively, and with the Director’s prior approval, a student may register who has completed mediation training with a local dispute settlement center or a trainer certified by the NC Dispute Resolution Commission

Client Interviewing & Counseling  (usually offered Summer)

2 credit hours

This course will introduce students to a practice-oriented approach to interviewing and counseling. We will study the interviewing process, using assigned readings, video tapes, lecture materials, short exercises, and mock interviews as teaching-learning materials. The course also will involve the study of counseling. Counseling encompasses identifying, for the client, the various legal and non legal alternatives in order to provide the client with the information he/she needs to make an informed decision as to how to resolve his/her problem. We will also spend some time recognizing the barriers our own personalities erect to effective attorney/client relationships. The overall objective of the course is to enable students to effectively interview and represent clients.

Course topics will explore: 1) recognizing legal and non-legal dimensions of a client’s problems; 2) developing fundamental skills, including effective listening and questioning; 3) gathering information; and 4) understanding the decision-making process and helping clients make appropriate decisions. In addition, we will consider the additional skills necessary when working with clients via online technology and clients with special needs (ie: clients dealing with issues of aging, poverty, divorce or other significant family changes).

Prerequisites: None

Decision Tree Analysis for Lawyers & Mediators

1 credit hour (Summer)

This course introduces fundamental concepts and techniques for analyzing risk and formulating sound decisions in the face of uncertainty and applies that learning to the work of lawyers and mediators. Decision Tree Analysis or Risk Analysis is used to build a visual map of the possible outcomes in a litigated case and to predict the likelihood of those results. It can be an extremely useful for an attorney planning litigation strategy, preparing for settlement negotiations, or communicating with the client or with counsel on the other side about risks and expected value. It can also be an effective tool for mediators facilitating discussion with parties and counsel about the reality of the choices they face. The class will master the “nuts and bolts” of decision tree analysis for simple cases, and will demonstrate its application in more complex scenarios. Perhaps more important than the method itself, participants will learn and practice a decision-tree analysis approach to thinking about risk and fairness in client counseling, negotiation, and mediation.

Lawyer As Problem Solver

2 credit hours (Summer)

This course is designed to encourage law students to learn more about themselves, think about how they will relate to their clients, and the impact of the practice of law on their personal lives, with the ultimate goal of exploring the motives and methods we use to solve problems. The course will begin with readings and discussions on the practice of law as it relates to emotional competence, personality traits, collaborations and spirituality. The course will then focus on the study and application of creative problem-solving methods that can be used to improve overall client satisfaction. Grades will be based on student presentation and in-class exercises.

Mediation Advocacy (Fall)

2 credit hours

This course will examine and develop the unique skill set necessary to operate as an effective advocate for parties in non-adversarial dispute resolution processes, particularly mediation. The course is taught using interactive role-plays and simulation exercises. Topics addressed will include selecting a mediator, preparing the case and the client for the process, developing problem-solving approaches, preparing mediation presentations, effective negotiation strategies and tactics, and drafting workable resolutions. The course will also prepare students to participate in the ABA Representation in Mediation Competition that takes place each spring semester.

Prerequisite: Negotiation

Negotiation All Around Us (some Summers)

3 credit hours

Designed for law school students who want to improve their negotiation skills and style and who want to realize more effective outcomes when faced with conflict. Students gain a theoretical framework for understanding negotiation practices and processes through current literature in the area, tested against experience gained through realistic role-plays and simulation exercises. The class is highly interactive and challenges students to use past experiences with conflict to simulate the complexity of circumstances they will face in their future professional careers. Students may take more than one negotiation course only with permission of the Director of the DRI.

Plea Bargaining (Spring/Summer)

2 credit hours

This course will examine plea bargaining in federal and state court, including ethical considerations in plea bargaining (ABA Standards on Criminal Justice and the NDAA standards), legal considerations in the prosecution’s charging decision, entering pleas and sentencing, along with plea bargaining and sentencing under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The course will tie broader negotiation theory and problem-solving strategies to the practice of plea bargaining from both the prosecution and defense perspectives.

Selected Topics in Dispute Resolution*

*Offered occasionally; course content varies.

1, 2, or 3 credit hours

This course will be used to address unique and timely topics, to accommodate one-time offerings, and to offer special seminar courses, such as ADR Systems Design, Family Mediation, Collaborative Divorce, and ADR in the Workplace.

Superior Court Mediation (Summer/Evening only)

2 credit hours

This course covers substantially the same content as Superior Court Mediation – Day, but it is taught over a five-week period as part of the Evening Program’s regular Summer Session. The longer format and greater instruction time allow for additional readings and out-of-class assignments.

Theories of Conflict (Summer only)

2 credit hours

The role of the lawyer is increasingly understood to require core competencies in problem-solving and managing conflict. Therefore, effective representation is enhanced by a deeper understanding of the sources and nature of conflict. This course will examine conflict from a variety of theoretical perspectives including biological, psychodynamic, communication, social systems, and management. Implications for conflict escalation, de-escalation, and conflict transformation will be addressed. Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Recognize a variety of causes of conflict and conflict escalation, leading to greater ability to alter nonproductive responses to conflict.
  • Recognize types of conflict that are beneficial and detrimental to individual, group, and/or organizational outcomes, leading to ability to foster productive conflict.
  • Recognize the advantages, disadvantages, and potential outcomes of a variety of conflict management strategies.
  • Analyze the characteristics of a given conflict, improving the ability to select appropriate conflict management strategies for different conflict situations.
  • Respond more productively to conflict through effective dialogue and negotiation.

DRI Externship I (Fall/Spring/Summer)

2 credit hours

This course may be taken by any student. Students enrolled in the DRI Certificate Program will be given registration preference. The externship is conceived as a mechanism for linking students in meaningful ways to the practice of dispute resolution. The externship must contain a substantial dispute resolution component and provide significant opportunities for students to experience and learn practical dispute resolution applications and skills. Before registering for the course, the student must submit an application/proposal to the Director of the DRI, who has the authority to accept or deny the application. Students are responsible for proposing their own placement, though the DRI can sometimes make suggestions and provide ideas and introductions. Before completing the application, the student must have researched their proposed placement and talked in detail with someone within the organization about how the student’s externship will provide meaningful experience based learning opportunities. Credit for the course requires a minimum of 100 documented hours of work toward the externship and presentation of a final report (or weekly journal) that is reflective of the learning experience. Consult the Director of the Dispute Resolution Institute for more information. This course is graded on a pass/fail basis.

DRI Externship II (Fall/Spring/Summer)*

*Necessary to receive the Advanced Certificate in Dispute Resolution

3 credit hours

This course is required for students seeking the Advanced Certificate in Dispute Resolution. The requirements are the same as DRI Externship I, except that the student must submit a 30 page final paper of publishable quality, the preparation of which will be supervised by the Director. This course is graded.