After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and a Master’s degree at the University of Chicago (both in sociology), teaching college for several years, and working in software engineering for 15 years, Andrew Marchant-Shapiro decided to pursue a law degree. Quinnipiac School of Law’s Dean’s Fellows scholarship program caught his attention, and during an interview with some faculty members, one professor inquired as to whether or not The Fellowship of Reconciliation--a pacifist organization that Andrew was affiliated with–was a dispute resolution organization.

That query served to connect his dedication to pacifism with the importance of the role that dispute resolution plays in achieving that goal. He found himself drawn to dispute resolution at Quinnipiac, starting with trying out for the Society for Dispute Resolution’s competition team and later in enrolling and participating in various dispute resolution courses.

In a regional Representation in Mediation competition, Andrew and his co-competitor, along with 2 other teams from QU Law, made up the top 3 teams at an ABA regional competition in Rhode Island. It was then that Andrew got a sense for what QUSL was capable of when it comes to the field of dispute resolution. His team ended up placing second overall.

He has since transitioned into practicing law and incorporating mediation into his work as much as he can. Andrew currently has a small practice, River Bridge Resolutions, LLC, where he represents clients primarily in the fields of inmate civil rights, family, and business law, trying particularly with the latter two to stress the role that mediation and relationship building have for maintaining cooperation, whether in families or in business. In such settings, he has experienced that using litigation can destroy a relationship crucial to a family or to an ongoing project.  While he is excited about assisting divorcing couples to work out parenting plans and helping businesses make good deals and maintain professional relationships, he recognizes that there is much more to do in the legal field to make potential clients aware of the benefits and availability of mediation in lieu of litigation. “We need to find a way to make mediation sexy,” he told me as he was thinking, that as far as awareness of the legal system and the legal community goes, most people only think of lawyers as litigators, and don’t realize that mediation is an option. As the treasurer of The Connecticut Mediation Association (CTMA), Andrew hopes to find ways to do just that and to promote mediation as a tool that can help parties solve problems in an efficient manner. Mediation is particularly apt when there are matters that require people to work toward the future, whether it is parents ensuring the well-being of their child or businesses working together on an ongoing project. Mediation is a great way to maintain relationships into the future instead of potentially destroying them in litigation.

At the end of the day, Andrew hopes that attorneys and clients alike will recognize the value in resolving disputes as opposed to squeezing the greatest financial value out of any given situation. Mediation is about advocating for a solution, as opposed to advocating for a client’s individual interests, and neutrality is key. When asked what advice he had for current law students, Andrew stressed the importance of obtaining soft lawyering skills during law school due to the number of cases that settle. He said, “Work on your negotiating skills as soon as you can because the vast majority of cases are not going to end up in court, and even the ones that do will likely end up settling at some point. Get involved in SDR. Volunteer as a community mediator.”