Edward “Eddy” Mata has won the Jeffrey S. Abrams National Mediator Contest, sponsored by the University of Houston.
Mata, in his second year of law school, is a member of UC Hastings College of the Law’s Negotiation and Mediation Team. The competition is one of 12 the team competes in annually. Approximately 30 students compete at a live competition each year. The Abrams mediation contest was only the second for Mata. He will compete in an international competition in Paris in February 2013.
“Coming into law school, I was not interested in litigation,” says Mata, 29, a native of the Dominican Republic. But the Negotiation Team intrigued him. He tried out and made the team, despite not having taken any negotiations courses offered by the college.
A nine-year veteran of the Navy, Mata excelled at negotiation, said Clint Waasted, who coaches the team. “I really enjoy outmaneuvering the other party with my bargaining,” Mata said. He could be powerful, dominant, and persuasive. Negotiation, however, was a different animal, and required a different skills set, one that Mata wasn’t sure he had, he said.
Like other students on the team, Mata works intensely and often one-on-one with Waasted, general counsel for a local software company who has coached the team for 12 years. The team benefits from individual support, coaching and mentoring from alumni, faculty and practitioners who help students maximize their performance, increase their understanding of legal issues, and develop skills.
Mata began training as a mediator in mid-October, just weeks before the competition. “When we started, he didn’t know what mediation was,” said Waasted. “But he is an extraordinarily intelligent and articulate person, and I had all the confidence in the world he would be good at being a diplomat. My job was helping him see that in himself.”
Being a mediator requires not only understanding a complex legal problem, but understanding the psychological issues the parties bring to the table as well. “The idea is to find out where people would like to go, and where they can go, and then create the environment for that, “Waasted said. The best mediators think many steps ahead, like a chess player, and lead while allowing the parties to come to a solution on their own.
Mata, who has an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering and worked for two years as a data center engineer in Silicon Valley, hopes to put his skills to work within the new corporate structures known as for-benefit corporations, a new corporate firm that allows the tax benefits of a nonprofit within the structure of a more traditional corporation, while still working for both shareholder and community benefit. They became available as a corporate structure in California in January 2012.
Mata’s team members, Ari Cover, Nick Campbell, and Kate Keller-Kriozere, each placed within the top 10 at the competition. UC Hastings students have done well at the annual mediation contest, but this is the first year the school has placed first.
“The hard work of the whole team and the enormous dedication of Coach Waasted have once again reminded us of the value of these mediation skills,” said Sheila Purcell, director of UC Hastings' Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. “Here, the team and others learn dispute resolution theory as well as practical negotiation and mediation skills. Those who can assist in putting together creative deals, who can help clients work through communication breakdowns, and who seek to advance the good of the whole are often the most successful in the legal profession.”