My alma mater, Suffolk University Law School in Boston, is hosting a group of visiting mediators and mediation program administrators from Bulgaria who are here on a twelve-day study tour under the sponsorship of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
This tour furthers the efforts of USAID’s Commercial Law Reform Program (CLRP) to promote access to and use of mediation to alleviate the strain on Bulgarian’s underfunded and overburdened judiciary (a problem which will have the ring of familiarity to American jurists). CLRP has worked closely with Bulgaria to help it develop its capacity to provide court-connected mediation services. A legal framework supporting mediation is in place, which includes a Mediation Act enacted in December 2004, comprehensive procedural and ethical rules of conduct for mediators, and mediation training standards.
In addition, last year the 110-year-old Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) with the support of USAID opened a Commercial Mediation Center in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, with the goal of promoting the use of mediation as a time- and cost-saving measure.
This study tour was developed by and is under the supervision of Gabrielle Gropman, a mediator with over two decades of experience, who served as the administrator of the Harvard Mediation Program at Harvard Law School for 20 years and who possesses substantial experience as a trainer in both the U.S. and Europe.
Chief trainer is my friend and colleague Ericka Gray, who, among her many achievements, served as the founding Executive Director of the Middlesex Multi-Door Courthouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later as the Executive Director of the Academy of Family Mediators, one of the organizations which later became the Association for Conflict Resolution, before founding her dispute resolution firm DisputEd in 1998.
Participation in this study tour is designed to provide participants with advanced commercial mediation skills and techniques, strategies for the successful administration and financial operation of commercial mediation programs, techniques for training commercial mediators, and the opportunity to establish ties with mediators and mediation service providers here in the U.S.
For two days this week I was privileged to join the study tour as Ericka’s co-trainer teaching these distinguished visitors from Bulgaria advanced commercial mediation skills. Vastly knowledgeable about mediation, deeply committed to its precepts, and rooted squarely in its theory and practice, they had much to teach us as well.
The impression that has remained with me today as I reflect on my time with these extraordinary individuals is the degree to which mediation has become a universal language, an idiom that all of us who are mediators speak and share.
For more information on mediation in Bulgaria, visit the web site for the Mediation Center at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.