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Mediation Clinic

USC Gould School of Law

JD students gain firsthand experience using conflict resolution techniques to mediate real cases in Los Angeles County Superior Court through our award-winning Mediation Clinic. In the role of the "neutral," you will help parties in actual cases arrive at mutually agreeable solutions to their conflicts. In a single year, you will personally mediate several dozen cases, either individually or in a co-mediation with a classmate.

Our JD students have helped hundreds of litigants settle their cases and avoid the expense, unpredictability and emotional drama of a courtroom trial. The vast majority of these clients would never be able to afford the cost of private mediation services.

Why Choose Mediation?

Mediation is one of the fastest-growing areas of law, especially in California, where fewer than 2 percent of lawsuits filed today actually make it to trial. Mediators do not represent one side or the other. Instead, they are third-party neutrals who act as facilitators to help the parties reach a resolution to their lawsuit. Whether or not you choose a career path in this field, the experiential learning skills gained through the clinic will prove invaluable in crafting creative solutions in emotionally charged situations.

Types of Cases

The following are some representative cases you might mediate through the clinic:

  • civil harassment restraining orders
  • disputes between neighbors
  • family conflicts
  • landlord/tenant matters
  • contractual disputes
  • entertainment industry cases
  • consumer/merchant cases
  • medical malpractice cases
  • employment disputes
  • disability rights cases

Selection Process

First-year JD students are invited to apply in the spring for the following academic year. After completing a full year in the clinic, you may apply for the Advanced Mediation Clinic, through which you learn more sophisticated techniques and gain experience dealing with more complex and demanding cases, in which lawyers frequently represent their clients during the mediation process.

Because of the hands-on nature of the Mediation Clinic, enrollment is currently limited to 20 students per year. Each year, up to 10 additional students may enroll in the Advanced Mediation Clinic. Selection is interview-based.

Academic Credit

The clinic is a two-semester course within the JD curriculum and, if selected, you will receive academic credit. Students enroll in the clinical course for one year with the potential for a second year in the Advanced Mediation Clinic. The clinic does not currently operate during the summer.

The first half of the first semester focuses on preparing you to serve as a mediator. You will study the legal, ethical and practical issues that arise in mediation and observe live court mediations conducted by professional mediators. You will also have the opportunity to practice your skills in simulated mediations both inside and outside of class before handling actual cases.

Upon certification by your professor, you will be qualified to independently mediate small claims and civil harassment cases for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Learning Outcomes

Among the widely applicable skills you will hone through the program are:

  • problem-solving
  • active listening tools
  • effective questioning techniques
  • persuasion
  • methods for breaking an impasse
  • closing a deal
  • drafting settlement agreements
  • interacting with judges and court personnel

Clinical Director

Lisa Klerman directs the Mediation Clinic, which she founded in 2007. She is also the director of the school's USC Gould School of Law Center for Dispute Resolution. The Mediation Clinic courses she designed and developed received national recognition in 2011, when the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council honored the USC Gould School of Law with its prestigious ADR Education Award. Previously a partner at Morrison & Foerster, Prof. Klerman subsequently developed a highly successful career as a private mediator. She has appeared as a commentator on the BBC, NBC Nightly News and National Public Radio, and is a frequent speaker on alternative dispute resolution, negotiation and mediation. She earned her JD at the University of Chicago Law School.

Student & Alumni Testimonials

"I can't imagine starting out as a young lawyer and never having been in court or seen how to interact with the court staff or the judicial officers. It certainly helps for people coming out of school to have marketable skills beyond academics. Being in court several days a week strengthened my professional confidence."
Gerard Olson, JD '14, Associate, Hunton & Williams LLP

"I came into the Mediation Clinic with a very limited understanding of what the process offered to the legal profession as an alternative to litigation. [It was] the single most formative course [of my academic career]. I now have a well-rounded view of the legal profession and the potential benefits of avoiding the traditional legal system."
Miguel Espinoza, JD '07, Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles

Client/Institutional Testimonials

"We appreciate the unique way in which [the USC Gould School of Law] allows law students to participate in a beginning mediation clinical program, and then encourage[s] them to participate in the advanced mediation clinic. The idea of having the advanced mediation clinic students train and mentor the beginning student mediators is an exceptional way for the advanced students to improve their mediation skills."
Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, U.S. Ninth Circuit Court, in awarding the USC Gould School of Law its ADR Education Award

Clinical Professor Testimonials

"Students who are exposed to mediation processes and techniques in law school will have an edge, plain and simple. Their knowledge will make them much more effective in representing clients in any situation."
Lisa Klerman, Director, USC Gould School of Law Center for Dispute Resolution; Director, Mediation Clinic

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