Bill Holder Advanced Mediation Workshop



I am very fortunate to work at a firm that truly appreciates the value of mediation work and is willing to support its mediators in taking advantage of excellent ADR training opportunities. One such opportunity occurred a few years back when I was able to attend the Advanced Mediation Training Course offered under the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. I had previously attended the Advanced Mediation course offered in British Columbia and while it was excellent, I hoped that a trip to Harvard would provide me with a wider ADR perspective and equip me with some new “tools” to use in my mediation practice here in BC. I can say without hesitation that the training I received not only exceeded my expectations, but also saw me work with a network of highly skilled ADR professionals whom I now count as friends.

Two of the individuals who inspired me the most during my all too short trip to Harvard were Professors Audrey Lee and David Hoffman. I recall speaking to both of them at the end of the course to suggest that they visit BC and conduct workshops for ADR professionals. Both were very open to the idea and last April, Professor Lee came to Vancouver to conduct a well-received half-day seminar on implicit bias. Given that success, we discussed a return visit for a more in-depth seminar and, after a great deal of work on their parts, both Professor Lee and Professor Hoffman will be in Vancouver on May 8 and 9, 2019 to conduct a workshop on advanced mediation topics.

Professor Lee is a senior mediator at the Boston Law Collaborative LLC (“BLC”) and Executive Director at the BLC Institute, a non-profit committed to providing education and training in all areas of ADR. Professor Hoffman is a founding member of the BLC and teaches three courses at Harvard Law School.  Both serve as instructors in the school’s Advanced Mediation Program.

Course Content

The Advanced Mediation Workshop in May will see Professors Lee and Hoffman using a combined lecture, simulation, and question and answer format. This will make for a very engaging experience and one that is highly interactive between the instructors and course attendees. Based on my past experience, I can say that the two-day course offered this May will be both challenging and very rewarding.


The course provides a unique opportunity for mediators to receive training in advanced mediation subjects. During the morning of the workshop’s first day, participants will learn about mediation strategy, process design and the all-important subject of building rapport and trust with counsel and the parties. This will lead to the additional topic of working with counsel and dealing with the dynamics in play between counsel and their clients. Process design is not normally a topic on which mediators focus, as we all tend to fall back on our own tried and true methods and can be guilty of not wanting to stray from our comfort zone. Learning about process design can be, in fact, a real eye-opener in terms of how mediators can structure a given mediation or customize their approach to the ADR process. Improved process can result in increased efficiencies and greater success in achieving resolution.  At the same time, paying attention to counsel/client dynamics and the all-important need to build trust “in the room” can reap huge dividends in ensuring a fruitful mediation and, dare I say it, an increase in the number of repeat engagements that a mediator may see from counsel.

During the afternoon of the first day, the workshop’s focus will shift to a mediator’s ability to identify core concerns and use them to achieve resolution. The day will then conclude with what promises to be a very lively discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of moving to “caucus,” caucusing for counsel alone, and the use of joint sessions involving all of the participants at the mediation. Incidentally, and aside from the fact that both Professors Lee and Hoffman love to dive in on questions at a moment’s notice, the first day of the workshop will see participants engaged in two separate simulations. Simulations of this sort were <em>de rigueur</em> at the Harvard course and the Professors are highly skilled at making them both realistic and enjoyable.

Day two of the course will dig into the concepts of fairness, distributive bargaining and secondary conflicts. The subjects of mediator evaluation and negotiation coaching will also be explored. If you are hoping to add to your mediator’s “tool kit,” the morning session will also provide some unique opportunities to learn impasse-breaking techniques. This particular subject was featured at the sessions I attended in Harvard and I cannot begin to guess the number of times that I have called upon this skill set to assist parties when the will to mediate seemed all but lost.

The workshop will also cover psychological dimensions of mediation and topics, which to my mind are of key interest in BC, such as culture, diversity and implicit bias in mediation. Last year’s half-day presentation by Professor Lee dealt with the matter of implicit bias and was both highly motivating and a real eye-opener. Think you are a “neutral”?  Do you take pride in the fact that you are completely open and unbiased in your approach to ADR? Check those thoughts at the door – there’s lots to learn.

The second day of the workshop will conclude with a discussion on mediation ethics, a recent hot topic in the ADR field. As will be the case on day one, day two should see vigorous question and answer opportunities and one further simulation. A fantastic opportunity.

As mentioned above, I was very fortunate to be able to obtain advanced training at Harvard; however, I would be the first to admit that tuition, travel, and accommodation expenses may be daunting for some.  The May 8-9 workshop provides two full days of accredited training by two very gifted Professors who are making the trip to Vancouver and yet the cost to CBA members is only $800.00 plus GST ($900.00 for Mediate BC Rostered Mediators and Associated Mediators, and $1,100.00 for non-CBA members, plus GST). By any measure, this is a spectacular bargain and I can unreservedly recommend that you attend.

Register for the Advanced Mediation Workshop.  


About the Author

William (Bill) Holder is a partner at the law firm of Clark Wilson LLP. He works as both a business litigator and mediator serving as the Co-Chair of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Vancouver Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Subsection and as the National Chair of the CBA’s ADR Communications and Awards Committee. Bill is a member of Mediate BC’s Civil Roster.