Bar Bulletin

April, 2003

PRO BONO Profile

A Win - Win - Win Situation
By Lisa Muscara

If you want to talk with someone who absolutely loves what they do, strike up a conversation with Jerry Rainville, Esq. Three years ago, Rainville retired after 30 years of government service, and since that time he has continued to serve the community as a pro bono mediator. Retirement doesn’t mean that Jerry’s schedule has slowed down. In fact, he will tell you, “I’m probably busier now that I’m retired than during the 30 years when I worked for the government. But now, my practice is limited to things that are fun!”

One of those exclusively fun activities that Rainville has committed to is serving as a pro bono mediator for Maryland’s District Court. The District Court of Maryland program uses volunteer mediators and facilitators to assist with the resolution of civil cases on the day these cases are scheduled for trial. According to Alice R. Rentschler, Esq., Director of ADR Programs for the District Court, the program “really took off in the year 2000,” and since that time, pro bono mediators and facilitators have successfully resolved at least a thousand cases. Rentschler, describes the pro bono civil mediation program as a “win-win-win situation. The parties win by having a more satisfactory outcome in their case. The court wins by gaining assistance with the docket. You (pro bono mediators) win by gaining experience, earning pro bono hours and sharpening your skills while helping members of the community.”

During Rainville’s 30-year career with the government, he was responsible for negotiating and peacekeeping activities. Once he retired, Rainville identified civil mediation as a natural extension of his professional experience. As Rainville states, “this is an area where I had a head start.” In December 2000, Rainville participated in mediation training and immediately started mediating civil cases at the District Court.

Rainville touts the benefits of mediation. “For anyone who has an old law degree they want to fire back up, or a new law degree, you can’t beat mediation,” he says. “You get to learn the ropes of the courthouse. You get a really good taste for what civil litigation is about and what litigants are like. And, if you’re a people watcher, you really can’t beat it. You encounter the wide range of human emotion through mediation.” As for the benefits to clients, Rainville appreciates the justice derived from mediation. “I’m a believer that some cases need to be litigated, but for the most part, I think mediation is more humane,” he continues. “It gives people a chance to blow off some steam, and they usually go home feeling as if they’ve had some control over the outcome of their case.”

Describing his motivation to serve as a pro bono mediator, Rainville remarks, “I suppose I do it just for the joy of doing it. But I like to think maybe I’m also doing some good; maybe I’m helping to clear the court’s calendar; maybe I’m helping clients feel like they have some control over the results of their case…it’s just a wonderful feeling. I’m not sure if there have been any studies to determine whether we release endorphins when we mediate, but it sure feels that way!”

At this point, Rainville has developed such experience with mediation that he serves as a mentor to new mediators, and helps critique mediation exercises at MICPEL trainings. He really enjoys this aspect of his involvement with the mediation community, and explains, “To bring others along as new mediators is almost as rewarding as mediating a case. To watch people using their new skills to mediate a case is really rewarding.” Rainville offers this advice to new mediators: “If you fail to get someone a settlement in the case, hang around for the trial. To see how the Judge deals with the same issues and clients, that’s really interesting.”

Rainville has had such a positive, rewarding experience serving as a pro bono mediator for the District court that he emphatically proclaims “I would recommend it to anyone.”

If you are a trained mediator or facilitator, and are interested in creating a rewarding experience of your own with the District Court’s program, please call the District Court ADR Office at (410) 260-1676.

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