Rutgers Law second-year students Mary-Kate Collins and Yiota Kotokis placed third in the national finals for the ABA Dispute Resolution Section’s Representation in Mediation Competition in New York City on April 6 and 7.Hailing from nine regions around the country, just eight teams out of 45 qualified for the nationals, including the Rutgers Law School team from the Camden location.
“We are really grateful for the opportunity to participate in the conference with the support of Dean Jill Friedman and the Pro Bono Mediation Project and our coach Matt Schorr,” says Collins. “The opportunity to take the Civil Mediation class, which is 40-hour training in mediation, along with the 25-hour training for the Pro Bono Project and the volunteer opportunities in Camden’s municipal, small claims, and landlord/tenant courts have given us a great experience and preparation for the competition.”
After two rounds of competing in the nationals, the Rutgers Law team lost to Texas A&M, which ultimately won the national title. To advance to that level in the competition Collins and Kotokis prepared for and successfully argued six different fact patterns that addressed a will contest; a construction defects case; a family trust/business dispute; a contract dispute/breach of warranty case; an employment case dealing with wrongful termination; and an intellectual property case.
According to their coach Matthew Schorr a 2015 alumnus, who currently serves as a judicial law clerk at Camden County Superior Court, it was an incredible showing by the Rutgers students on a national level.
“Many seasoned coaches were shocked that this was our first entry in this competition in over seven years,” says Schorr, who co-chairs the Young Professionals Committee of the American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section.
Rutgers Law students John Lamb and Stacey Gorin, who are both active in the Rutgers Mediation Pro Bono Project in Camden also participated in the regional competition. During regionals, Collins and Kotokis competed against 11 other teams, including colleagues from Rutgers Law School’s Newark location. Coached by Mike Griffth, the Rutgers Law School team from Newark included Emily Stein and John Fitzgerald. Next year, two teams from Rutgers Law School will enter the competition as a single institution.
Both Collins and Kotokis came to law school with established careers. Kotokis, a dual-degree candidate in law and business, served as a U.S. Marine and a police officer. She credits her teammate for entering into the competition.
“Mary-Kate is super awesome and it’s her fault I even participated,” says Kotokis, who recently travelled with classmates to South Africa during spring break.
Collins says that mediation is one of the reasons that she enrolled in law school after a 20-year career in association meeting planning, most recently serving as executive director of Executive Women of New Jersey.
“I have been volunteering as a mediator for years and Yiota and I took Professor Caroline Petrilla’s Civil Mediation course last summer. She and I also participate in the Mediation Pro Bono Project. I thought we would make a good team and asked her if she would partner with me.”
After beating 11 teams during the regional competition in March, Collins and Kotokis prepared for nationals by reviewing the problems with their coach and preparing a representation plan for each problem. That plan covered their allocation strategy, interests, best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA, possible collaborative solutions, and more.
“This competition gave us invaluable experience in advocating for a client in mediation,” Collins adds. “We made a great team and were proud to do so well against more experienced teams.”