June 17, 2015 – The longtime head of the successful mediation training program at the University of Houston Law Center is stepping away from the table, but the course, among the oldest in the state if not the country, will continue in the capable hands of two seasoned mediators and UHLC grads.
Professor Emeritus Thomas C. Newhouse estimates he has trained more than 900 lawyers and non-lawyers in the specialized practice during his 15 years as director of the 40-hour course.
He has seen tremendous growth in the use of alternative dispute resolution to settle a wide array of legal issues both before they get to the courthouse steps and after litigation has begun. Unlike the arbitration process, a mediator cannot make a binding decision, but facilitates negotiation between parties with an eye toward settlement.
“Mediation and arbitration have rapidly ballooned as lawyers and the courts got used to this sort of business,” he said. “Clients like it because they are in control. It can save time, and it can save money. It avoids the uncertainty of a trial and a jury. The process is very heavily used in Harris County, he said, to the point that mediation has become almost automatic in most courts. “Lawyers are asking for it,” he noted. “Judges can require it. Settlement is the name of the game, and mediation really fills the bill.”
And just what makes a good mediator?
“I would say in terms of virtues that good mediators bring to the table, there are two: patience and humility,” he said. “Mediators have got to be good listeners to help facilitate the bargaining. The genius of the process is in letting it work and not letting the mediator get in the way.”
Newhouse, who earned his B.A. from Notre Dame, his J.D. from the University of Tulsa College of Law, and an LL.M. from NYU, joined the law school faculty in 1966. Over the years he taught Mediation; Alternative Dispute Resolution; Civil Procedure; Family Law; and Labor Law; as well as directing the Mediation and Legal Aid Clinics. He retired once before, leaving the classroom in the late ‘90s, but returning soon after to serve as interim director of the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center until the appointment of the current director, Ben Sheppard, in 2006.
Starting in September, the 40-hour mediation training program will be led by two graduates of the law school, both veteran lawyers, mediators, and frequent facilitators at training sessions: J.L “Larry” Hinojosa ’81 and Bruce Wettman ’73, a former family court judge.
As for Newhouse, he’s not about to walk away after nearly 50 years at the law school. “I’ll be keeping my hand it,” he said, helping with advanced training through the A.A. White Center and working on special projects.
For more information about the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center and the mediation training program click here.