“No matter what, you will leave a winner” – Mayssa Khatar

I participated in the first edition of CDRC Vienna when I was in my third year of Law School at Saint Joseph University, Lebanon. My colleague Omar Karam and I won the first prize for negotiation. In this article, I will first list some do’s and don’ts that will hopefully help you reach as far as possible in the competition. After that, I will share my journey at CDRC Vienna and how I benefited from this experience. Remember though, do your best to win but believe me when I say that the fact that you will get to be in Vienna and participate in the competition already means that you are a winner.

Before I share with you the key tips to success, please keep in mind that this is a mediation and NOT an arbitration competition. You are not here to fight with the opposing team, you are here to negotiate. The ultimate goal of mediation is to reach a solution based on common grounds that might as well be an outside-of-the-box solution, one that you wouldn’t be able to reach in arbitration, nor in litigation. This takes me to the do’s and don’ts that will help you lead a successful mediation and negotiation process.

To start with, it is essential that you know of every single detail of the facts of the case. Think of it this way: if it was real life mediation and you were defending your case, knowing every single detail of it would be a given.

Second, listen to the other party. Don’t be eager to respond sticking to your own prepared lines without acknowledging what the other party is trying to say. What helped me with that was reformulating and summarising what the other party had said before responding. This method allows you to create a positive vibe with the opposite team that would feel heard, making the process a more productive one.

Third, don’t forget that this is a team work. When Omar and I first started working and preparing for the competition together, we argued sometimes. We had different perceptions. This actually turned out to be an advantage. As long as you and your teammate are straightforward with each other, it’s okay if you don’t agree on everything. However, it is important that you and your teammate are in sync, on the same page, during a mediation session. You have to know what is your role and what are your limits whether as Client or as Counsel. What I also learned is that your team is also your moral support. Omar and I definitely could not make it on our own without the support and reassurance of both our coaches Norma Akoury and Lamice Nasr as well as our mediator Sandra Geahchan. In order to succeed, you really have to know how to be a team player, how to listen to different opinions and take them into consideration.

Fourth, do not forget the mediator. As a participating negotiator, you can tend to forget the presence of the mediator. Be careful to effectively use the mediator and listen to him.  Not only will this affect your performance but it will also help you reach an agreement. The mediator is there to help, make use of him to move forward in your “assisted negotiation”.

Fifth, listen to what the experts have to say during feedback. The learning and improving process does not end when you arrive in Vienna, it continues with every session if you learn how to incorporate the feedback of experts. Yes, you might get conflicting feedback sometimes but this is only normal. You will have to learn to look at the bigger picture. When I first arrived in Vienna, I did not know what to expect. I did not want all the hard work and preparation we had invested to go to waste. However, it turned out that I learned more and more in every session after every feedback. The way we performed at our first session was nothing compared to how we were at the finals…

This experience, starting from the preparation phase in Beirut until the event in Vienna, was one of the most enriching experiences in my life whether from a professional or personal perspective. Unconsciously, it changed the way I talk and deal with people in my everyday life. You will not realise the importance of mediation and negotiation until you leave Vienna. It has the power of changing you. It makes you more patient, strategic, attentive to others, and most importantly a better listener. You can be the smartest person on record, but the skills you will acquire in mediation and negotiation are the skills that will make you go far in life and distinguish you from others.

Another very important aspect of this competition is the exposure you will have. You will meet people sharing the same passion as you from all around the world. Don’t underestimate the importance of networking. I met amazing people with whom I’m still in contact with even two years later! Meet and talk to as many people as possible from participants to experts. Most importantly, do not forget to have fun and enjoy every moment of the experience! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, seize it and make the best out of it.


Mayssa Khattar

mayssaI graduated Law School from Université Saint- Joseph de Beyrouth. I am currently an intern at DWF (Middle East) LLP Dubai in the arbitration department. I am a certified student mediator by the Centre Professional de Médiation USJ. I participated at the first edition of CDRC Vienna 2015 and won first prize for negotiation. This competition completely changed my view on the power of mediation and negotiation in resolving disputes. 

published May 22, 2017