Why Mediation Matters: A Step Toward Empowerment

By Salim Uqdah

Domination is potently feared by most people. The concept of an unfair exertion of power over a group or an individual by an entity is menacing because it can be arbitrary and unjust, and can make the recipient feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness. The beauty of the modern world is that we have the ability to decide how to live our lives. In the same way that the principle of manifest destiny was integral to the expansion of the United States, the freedom to make our fate with our own hands is crucial to achieving a positive sense of well-being. It is disheartening when a person can dominate you in a situation, but it is soul-crushing when a person perceives that a system is set up to have a power imbalance that harms them.

That is what I witnessed during my time at the courthouse. As a Judicial Assistant who worked in the Civil, Criminal, and Family Courts, I would see an assemblage of individuals who were dismayed with their experience within the judicial system. Some litigants’ reaction to a missed deadline or court date was a mixture of dread, frustration, and melancholia due to the belief that this was the only way to achieve their objectives. In my capacity as a court official, I could only provide procedure information and a soothing demeanor. I yearned to make a more meaningful impact.

My desire to provide a deeper level of assistance to the public led to my entry into the ADR field. Mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution offers a different option then awaiting the adjudication process. Mediation is particularly effective because it allows the disputants to reach a compromise by brainstorming possible options and reaching mutual consent, while the mediator shepherds the process to ensure goodwill and that intentions are heard clearly by everyone involved. Therefore, socially legitimate domination coined by philosopher Michael Thompson can be subverted in mediated conferences that facilitate disputants to choose their own desired solutions. It may be able to change the public’s perspective of how the legal system can operate.

As members of the legal community, it is our duty to inform and educate the public about the possibilities outside of litigation. For the average person, litigation is too lengthy, costly, and the result can be unpredictable. From a court management perspective, cases that can be resolved without litigation allow more time for cases that have significant issues of law that are being disputed. Lastly, the participants of the mediation can take ownership of the results of mediation because they devised the best solution for themselves and in concord with the other parties involved.

I have seen the benefits of mediation firsthand. I both conduct private mediations within my business, Uroboros Mediations, and have conducted Pro Bono mediations with the City of Charlotte’s Dispute Settlement Program, the Cabarrus County’s Conflict Resolution Center, and the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources with over 80 hours of mediations conducted this past year. My mediation work and service as the Paralegal Liaison of the NCBA Dispute Resolution Section and the Co-Chair of the Dispute Resolution Section’s Pro Bono Committee has only strengthened my belief that mediators have the potential to create a new balance to handle their conflicts expediently and amicably.

I hope to use my skill set as a Paralegal-Mediator to illustrate that the parties that enter mediations can craft an ideal agreement that fits their specific needs. The last 18 months of performing as a professional mediator have been the highlight of my life. I cannot wait to make more quality contributions as a soon-to-be Family Financial Mediator and eventually a Superior Court Mediator. I know mediation is how we can transform systemic domination into personal liberation.

Salim Uqdah is a multi-hyphenate professional. He is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal-eDiscovery advanced specialist-North Carolina public notary-entrepreneur-small business owner-mediator. The State of North Carolina employed him for three years at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, which is the largest county in the State. During his time at the courthouse, Salim worked in the District Domestic and Civil, Superior Criminal and Civil, and Special Proceedings and Estates. He absorbed quite a bit of knowledge of procedural information about the North Carolina Court system. On occasion, Salim supervised the Self-Serve Center, which is a public service center that provides self-represented litigants with resources to help them file a court case. Salim has cultivated a positive working relationship with many of the members of the Mecklenburg County Bar. He has superb interpersonal skills and an innate ability to communicate and connect with people from all walks of life. Salim’s ultimate goal is to utilize his background, education, work experience, and empathy to provide quality yet cost-effective mediation services to under-serviced North Carolinians.