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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Public Sector Mediation: Flexing Your Mediator Muscles Through Skills and Drills

Faculty: Toby Treem Guerin and Stephanie Blondell


Mediator Skills and Drills is a highly interactive skills-based course designed to enhance the tool kit of the public or private sector mediator. The trainers, who are clinicians and public sector mediators, have trained thousands of mediators and believe in the educational value of improvisation, drills and repetition to hone skills. The trainers bring a lens of nuance and sophistication to examine the decisions we make as mediators in our interventions and their impact on the participants and process. This course focuses on skills to address high-conflict personalities and intense emotions, self-represented parties unaccustomed to distributive negotiations, and outside interests of representatives including unions and enforcement agencies. The workshop also addresses issues of authority and agency, as well as the impasses of inertia (the wait for a new administration or policy, budget cycle, or collective bargaining agreement), common in conflicts involving public entities. The trainers bring their extensive public sector experiences to integrate common ethical challenges and maximize outcomes in mediations.

Designed to bridge the gap between the orthodox mediation models taught (theory) and the realities of mediation (practice), this intensive will expand the mediator's skill set. This course presents the information most relevant to public sector mediators via drills and role-plays. While examples in this course are largely from public sector mediation, the skills are transferable to mediators from both public and private sectors.

What you will learn:

  • Closing the deal with inexperienced negotiators
  • Reality testing (with an emphasis on the narrow and more directive and facilitative broad ) to round out the mediator's tool kit
  • Strategic questioning methods such as t-funneling and directional questions
  • Identifying "ghosts" in the room or uncovering an advocate's unarticulated institutional interests
  • Techniques to use with high-conflict individuals
  • Addressing issues of impasse and authority
  • Managing strong emotions
  • Recent research on mediator interventions


Toby Treem Guerin is the deputy director for the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and clinical instructor for its Mediation Clinic. Guerin has over 15 years experience mediating and facilitating in various venues including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and court systems. She served as the first chairperson of the Mediator Excellence Council, a mediator quality-assistance initiative in Maryland and formerly directed the agricultural mediation program at the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Guerin conducts trainings on topics such as basic mediation, co-mediation, elicitive feedback, mentoring, and effective communication, among others.

Stephanie Blondell is an assistant professor of law and practice and associate director of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. She supervises the Mediation Clinic and teaches Mediation Theory and Practice and Criminal Law. Prior to joining Pepperdine, she served as the manager of the King County Alternative Dispute Resolution Program and Inter-Local Conflict Resolution Group, a tri-county labor-management and public policy mediation program in the area around Seattle, Washington. Prior to this she was the alternative dispute resolution coordinator for the City of Seattle where she designed and implemented a labor and employment mediation program for city government. Before joining Straus full-time, Blondell served as an adjunct professor at Straus, the Seattle University School of Law, and the University of Washington master of public administration program. Blondell earned her BA with honors in American civilization from Brown University, and her JD from the University of Washington School of Law.