Paralegal skills and establishing an Advice Centre
This section looks at two important development skills which are very important for paralegal work. By 'development skills', we mean skills that contribute to building and empowering communities. These are:
Most of us deal with some or other negotiation every day of our lives. The paralegal will constantly be involved in negotiating on behalf of clients.
What is negotiation?
Negotiation takes place when two or more people or groups who have a conflict try come together to agree on how best to resolve this conflict. This might mean that one side must compromise. Usually it means that both sides compromise so that they can reach a settlement. This is called a ‘win-win’ situation.
How do you negotiate?
The main purpose of being a negotiator is to get the best settlement possible for yourself or for the person or group that you are representing. To do this, a negotiator needs certain skills such as:
Preparing for negotiations
Steps in planning and preparing for a negotiation
(a) Identify the issue
(b) Define your objectives
(c) Be clear about your mandate
(d) Selecting a negotiation team
(e) Getting to know the other side
(f) Plan your actual presentation
The process of negotiation
Steps in the process of negotiation:
Example of the stages of the negotiation process
Negotiating to get an employee’s job back
You are representing an employee who has been dismissed. You have to negotiate with the manager of the company where she was working.
Where two conflicting parties cannot reach agreement on the issue causing the conflict, they can agree to ask a third party, a mediator, help them reach a solution. A mediator is a person who acts as a facilitator between the parties but does not make a decision about who is right or wrong. So, a mediator is not a judge. The mediator goes on assisting both sides until the parties themselves come to an agreement. If it is clear that the parties are not going to reach an agreement, the mediator might have to withdraw from the process. The parties will then have to find another way to resolve their conflict, for example, by using arbitration or going to court. ( See Settling disputes outside of court)
The main job of a mediator is to keep the parties in the negotiation communicating with each other. To do this the mediator must get the trust and confidence of both parties and keep this trust by always being objective. The mediator must try and find out exactly what the problem or conflict is about. When the two sides meet together the mediator must encourage both sides to be realistic about what they want from the other side and what they are prepared to give.
If you representing a person or group at a mediation you need to prepare for the mediation in the same way as for a negotiation.
Examples of issues where you can use mediation
Planning a mediation session
You should be flexible when you plan a mediation session. For example, a more informal mediation between two neighbours needs a different approach compared to a mediation between a consumer and a company.
Below is an example of a mediation session. This example is for a formal mediation session around a conflict between two organisations, parties or groups. You need to allow time for translation, for each side to caucus (speak among themselves), or to give the mediator time to meet both sides separately. (See Checklist: Mediation code of conduct, Checklist: Tips for Mediators)
Outline for a mediation practice session
In an arbitration, a third party, acceptable to both parties, is called in to help the parties resolve the conflict. The difference between an arbitration and a mediation is that in an arbitration, the arbitrator is called on to make a decision about who is right or wrong. In other words, the arbitrator acts like a judge. The arbitrator chairs the hearing at which both parties are present, listens carefully to both sides of the story, listens to any witness, and looks at any documents which might be produced as evidence. He or she then goes through all the evidence and decides who wins the arbitration. The arbitrator writes down the reasons for his or her decision in a judgment and gives this to the parties.
Before the arbitration takes place the parties should agree in writing on the parameters of the arbitrator’s powers. For example, will the arbitrator’s decision be final or will there be a right of appeal. Usually the parties agree that the decision of the arbitrator is final. This means the parties must obey this decision and the losing party cannot appeal against the decision.
An arbitrator should use proper legal principles to interpret the evidence, but the arbitration process need not be as formal as in a court.
Facilitation skills for community education and training
Community education usually takes place in interactive workshops where the person running the workshop acts as a facilitator rather than a trainer.
Basic guidelines for running a workshop
Ask the question: 'What are you trying to achieve with this workshop?'
People want to have a better understanding of things that are a part of their lives and their own experiences must be part of what they learn. So when you introduce a new idea, you must link it to things that people know about.
Formal inputs which are too long can become very boring. There are many interesting ways of passing on information to people, for example, role-plays, problem-solving exercises, debates, videos and demonstrations.
It is much better to talk to people in their home language. If this is not possible use plain language and translate if necessary.
People learn better when they take part in the action. It is harder for people to participate in big groups. To keep people's concentration, use methods that involve people, such as small group discussions and buzz groups.
After the workshop you may need to do follow-up work or more workshops. All the people taking part should help you assess the workshop to decide whether there is a need for follow-up work or workshops, and how this should happen.
Planning a workshop
You can plan and structure a workshop according to the following guidelines:
Why are you running the workshop?
Workshops must be planned so that they have direction and also so that something practical comes out at the end.
Who is the workshop for?
If it is a big group, then you need to plan for smaller group sessions during the workshop. A group of more than 30 people is difficult to handle and makes it harder for everyone to participate in a way that is meaningful to them.
(link to point 2)
Translation takes a lot of time and skill. It must be planned and not left to the last minute.
4. Time and venue
(link to point 2)
Work out what facilities you will need, for example enough room or quiet smaller spaces for small group work. People should always be able to sit around in a circle at the venue. Make all the practical arrangements, for example, booking a venue, catering, seating arrangements, transporting the participants, having a crèche for children, and so on.
(link to points 1 and 2)
You can divide your workshop into the following sections:
6. Methods (link to point 5)
How will you get the message to people?
What workshop methods will help you to achieve this?
(See Workshop methods)
7. Facilitators and resources
Who will run the different parts of the workshop?
Prepare the resources you will need in the workshop, for example, inputs, small group questions, handouts and charts.
These are some examples of workshop methods.
Go-arounds - In a go-around everyone in the circle gets a chance to speak, for example, to introduce themselves, saying their name and organisation.
Wordwheels - Ask people to stand in two circles of equal numbers, one inside the other, so that each person in the inside circle faces someone in the outside circle. Ask people to introduce themselves to each other. After a minute or two, you ask the outside person to move one place to the right. Then ask people to do a second introduction or to say something about themselves or their work.
Icebreakers - Icebreakers are ways of getting people to loosen up and relax. For example, ask people to shake hands and introduce themselves to everyone in the group in two minutes. You can also try things like singing, playing games or warm-up exercises.
Expectations - Ask people to say what they want out of the workshop (their expectations) using the go-around or wordwheel method.
Finalising the programme - After hearing the expectations of the participants, summarise the aim of the workshop. Then go through the workshop programme (structure) which should already be written up on newsprint on the wall. Allow some time for questions or changes that people may want to make.
- Big group (plenary) methods
Formal inputs (talks or lectures) - A talk by one person should not go on longer than 15 or 20 minutes. The input can be split between two people. Inputs should be kept as simple and practical as possible, and use charts, handouts and plenty of examples.
Big group (plenary) discussions - There are different times in a workshop when you can have a big group discussion, for example, after small groups report back, or when the big group must decide on something. In a big workshop, it is better to keep the time for big group discussions short and to make more use of different small group methods
Speaking from experience - Ask one of the participants to talk about his or her direct experience of the issue or problem you are discussing in the workshop.
Case-study input - Give a short input on how a particular problem or issue was handled before and on what lessons can be learnt from this experience. If available, use photos, press-clippings or videos to explain the case-study.
Drama - A prepared and well-practised play (drama) is a good way of highlighting particular issues or processes, for example, acting out the steps involved in a forced removal.
Role-play - The role-play can also be used to act out everyday problems. A role-play is different from a drama because you get people in the workshop to act a part without letting them practise beforehand. Afterwards you assess their responses to being thrown into a situation. For example, role-playing a house being raided.
Debate - In a debate you make people take up different positions on a particular issue or proposal. Have a discussion after the debate and give each side an equal chance to answer the points that came up in the debate.
Buzz groups - In buzz groups you ask each person in the circle to turn to their 2 neighbours and to discuss something for a short time (usually 5 or 10 minutes). Then from the chair you do a quick go-around to get feedback by asking someone from each group to report back one point, and then other groups to only add on new points.
Wordwheels - You can also use the wordwheel method to discuss questions in a big group.
Small group methods
Small group discussions are an important part of all workshops.
After any long presentation (for example an input, role-play or drama), break people up into small groups to discuss what they saw or heard. Small groups should have no more than 8 people. Give small groups at least 30 minutes for discussion. It is better to give groups one or two clear questions to discuss rather than a long list of questions.
Write on newsprint the main points that each group reports. You can also ask each group to write a very short summary of their discussion on newsprint. Put this up for everyone to see.
These are methods you can use to improve small group discussions:
Go-arounds - The go-around method works very well in small groups. Go around in the circle giving each person a chance to talk. Do not let people interrupt or disagree with each other until everyone in the group has had their chance to speak.
Problem-solving and tasks- Give each group a very practical problem or task to work on. Ask the group to give a step-by-step approach to the problem and to write this down on newsprint. Write out the problems or questions for each group on a piece of paper beforehand and give this to the group facilitator. For example, you can ask small groups to develop a short drama around the issue, or to draw a map to explain the layout of an area, or to draw up a chart or pamphlet to simplify some problem or law.
A listening exercise - This is like a debate. You divide the group into two sides. Side A has to motivate for a particular solution, Side B has to motivate against it. Side A presents its argument. Before Side B responds, someone from the group must summarise Side A's argument. Then Side B gives its first argument. Side A must then summarise this point before giving next argument. The exercise then continues in the same way until the time is up. The main aim of this exercise is to encourage people to listen to the arguments of others and to learn how to summarise important points in a short time.
The two main problems concerning language in a community workshop situation are what language to use and the level of the language.
- Choice of language - Part of your planning for the workshop, should include the language you are going to use and whether you need translation. Translation could be in full, in other words, point by point, or it could be a summary after a whole section.
- Level of language
The success or failure of a community workshop can rest on the level of language used. When planning the workshop it is important to identify your workshop audience and what level of language you should aim for. These are some basic guidelines:
Written materials should be easy for the audience to read and understand. These are some of the ways to make written materials easier to read:
These are examples of workshop resources which can be used during workshops or after workshops for people to take away and read:
Evaluation and assessment
Evaluation is a process where a facilitator gets feedback from participants about how they experienced the workshop. Assessment is a process for measuring what participants have learnt and whether they have achieved their objectives (for the workshop).
Evaluation is about judging the overall value or worth of your workshop. By using various evaluation tools you can get information from participants that will tell you how they experienced the workshop, what contributed to the learning process and what hindered it. This information will help you decide whether the workshop was successful, whether it achieved what you wanted it to, and what the problems were. In this way you can build on your strengths and learn from your mistakes. So, workshop evaluations can be used for different purposes:
What are you evaluating?
Your evaluation will provide you with information about one or more of the following aspects:
When do you evaluate?
As a rule, you should always include some form of evaluation in your workshop plan, either as an ongoing evaluation throughout the workshop, or at the end of the workshop.
The most common form of evaluation is probably the questionaire handed out at the end of a workshop for participants to complete and hand in. However, evaluation can be included at different stages of a workshop. For example, a ‘Mood evaluation’ can be done at the same time each day to evaluate participants' moods. This can help you pick up any negative feelings about the workshop early on, and you can try and deal with the issues that are creating the negative feellings.
While evaluation looks at the overall value and worth of the workshop, assessment has to do with measuring what participants have learnt at the workshop. Assessment measures what participants have learnt against set standards. 'Set standards' in a workshop programme are the learning objectives defined at the beginning of the programme. The learning objectives should say clearly what the participants should be able to do at the end of the workshop and the assessment helps to see whether they have actually achieved this.
In a workshop on child abuse and human rights protection mechanisms, the learning objectives are for participants at the end of the workshop to be able to:
So, by the end of the workshop, participants should be able to do what is described in the objectives. They could write a test or complete an assignment to determine whether or not these learning objectives have been achieved.
What do you assess?
In order to see whether participants have achieved the objectives, you will measure one of more of the following:
At the end of a workshop on managing an advice centre, participants should be able to:
Your assessment of the learning in these workshops could be to set a test where participants have to draw up a budget for a specific case-study set or do an assignment where they draw up a budget for a specific project.
At the end of a workshop on the rights of refugees, participants should be able to:
Your assessment of learning in this workshop could include a test where participants have to list the rights that apply to refugees, explain how they would apply these rights in their own case work and define positive steps that can be taken to stop discrimination against refugees in their own community.
When do you assess?
You do not always have to include assessment in your training workshop. It all depends on the nature and the purpose of the workshop.
You need to be cautious if you do decide to include assessment in your workshop. Adults are not used to being assessed and may feel threatened. So, if you are planning to do an assessment you should discuss this with the participants at the beginning of the workshop - they need to understand why it is necessary and how it can help them.
Organisations that train and support paralegals
You can find the contact persons, addresses and telephone numbers for organisations that provide training and support for paralegals under Resources.
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ETU can not respond to requests for legal advice, contact the organisations listed under Resources.