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Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution

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Educational Opportunities for Non-Law Candidates

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to have a law degree to be a mediator or arbitrator?

There is no minimum requirement of training to be a mediator or arbitrator. There is no overseeing organization like the American Bar Association who certify mediators or arbitrators in the field. Anyone is able to mediate or arbitrate in private practice since frequency of work is dependent on whether people are willing to pay for their services. The courts or private panels are the organizations requiring a certain level of training to mediate or arbitrate cases on their panels. Depending on the organization, this can vary from 40 hours of training to educational requirements.

What are my career options as a non-law professional?

Graduates of the Straus Institute's programs have applied the skills in a variety of professions including contract negotiation, labor relations, human resources, ombuds, consulting, as well as traditional mediation and arbitration. The key for non-law professionals looking to go into private practice is to create an area of specialty. In general, the mediation field is very competitive. Focusing on an area of specialty is important when marketing a practice. For someone with 20 years of experience as a teacher, transitioning into school district or special education mediation is a smarter move than going into general mediation. The key is to bring your credibility and reputation from your previous career into your new mediation or arbitration practice.

What are the differences between the Certificate and Master's in Dispute Resolution program (M.D.R.)?

The Certificate is a 14 unit program and will provide foundational knowledge in the various dispute resolution processes through required courses like Mediation Theory and Practice; Negotiation Theory and Practice; Arbitration Practice; Interviewing, Counseling and Planning and three elective courses.

The M.D.R. program builds from the foundations of the Certificate program and delves into many of the practical components through the Mediation Clinic class and the Externship requirement. The M.D.R. program also requires some of the broader courses like Communication and Conflict, Cross-Cultural Conflict and Dispute Resolution, and Psychology of Conflict.

I am a full-time professional, what are my options as a part-time student?

The Straus Institute recognizes the schedule limitations for busy professionals, and offers the Certificate and M.D.R. programs with full-time or part-time options. Students can coordinate their participation in our academic programs with the pace of their professional and family commitments by taking advantage of one week, two weekend and evening courses at the Malibu and Irvine campus.

Are any of the courses available online?

The Straus Institute's academic programs are built on the foundation of learning the skills to resolve conflict. As a result, we require face-to-face interaction for students to learn and practice these skills through lectures, discussions and simulated exercises. We do not offer any of our courses in an online format, however our intensive courses have been designed in a way that allows full-time professionals, including those that do not reside in California.

I don't live in California, can I still participate in the program?

The Straus Institute's courses are offered in a variety of formats including one week, two weekend and fifteen week formats. Students have commuted from various locations across the nation including Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Arizona. Many of these commuting students take advantage of the two weekend courses offered at the Irvine campus, which is across the street from the John Wayne Airport. Commuting students can also participate in the intensive summer programs and the weekend courses offered at the Malibu campus.

I am really interested in a specialized topic; can I just take one class during the Summer or Winter Intensive program?

The Straus Institute's Summer and Winter Intensive program provide academic courses in shortened formats. Through these formats the Straus Institute is able to offer courses in specialized topics like labor, ombuds, dispute resolution systems design, and other advanced topics by flying in faculty around the nation. Professionals in the field are able to audit one or two courses when space is available. Priority is given to students enrolled in the academic program, then opened for audits. People that choose to audit an academic course are participating in the academic class as a training program, and are not required to meet the educational requirements like the final paper or exam. Audits pay 1/2 the tuition price for the course and are limited to 2 courses. To audit a class, applicants must submit the Summer or Winter Application form with a letter of interest and a copy of their resume that includes educational history.