Maara Fink ’96
Clinical Professor, Dispute Resolution Clinic
Clinical Professor Maara Fink, a 1996 graduate of Toledo Law, teaches in the Dispute Resolution Clinic, where second- and third-year students have the opportunity to mediate unruly and delinquent youth and small claims matters. Before joining the College of Law faculty, Professor Fink worked as the Mediation Coordinator for the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Juvenile Division, in Columbus, Ohio.
Professor Fink shares her thoughts on the role of the clinical professor and the work of the Dispute Resolution Clinic.
Q: How did you become interested in mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?
A: I was very interested in the law but was looking for an alternative to traditional practice that would assist individuals in resolving problems in a more informal way. The College of Law Dispute Resolution Clinic introduced me to the field of mediation during my final year of law school. I finally had the opportunity to help real people resolve conflict in a direct and meaningful way. Through this experience, I knew I had found the perfect fit.
Q: How did you become involved in legal education and clinical teaching?
A: I was working my “dream job” as the Mediation Coordinator for the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Juvenile Division, when my current position became available here at the College of Law. It was actually a very difficult decision to leave the court, but I chose to do so after I realized that I would still be able to have a hands-on role with parties while introducing law students to mediation practice at the same time – the best of both worlds!
Q: How do you see your role in the legal clinic?
A: My role is somewhat complex in that, as a clinician, I am responsible for educating students in both theory and practice. Therefore, my role is to educate students about the use of mediation and dispute resolution in the legal arena and to mentor and guide them through the practical component while they serve as mediators in our local courts.
Q: How have your legal experiences aided you in the classroom and clinic setting?
A: My experiences as the coordinator of a court-based mediation program allowed me to gain first-hand experience as a mediator in many different areas of law. It also provided me with a working knowledge of a court system very similar to that in which our students currently mediate. It also allowed me time to build my skills to the point where I felt very comfortable teaching and mentoring others in the field.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in Toledo Law’s legal clinics?
A: To me, the clinical opportunity is one of the most exciting and critical aspects of an individual’s legal education. It is very rewarding to be able to guide students through what is often their first exposure to the courts, the practice of law, and the field of mediation. I feel very fortunate to be able to balance my time with our students in both the classroom and the courthouse.
Q: What do you hope every student learns in our legal clinics?
A: I hope that our students learn that going to trial is not always the best answer for every case and that a successful outcome is not just about winning but about actually resolving the conflict. I also hope that our students will be exposed to and develop the interpersonal communication skills which are essential to good lawyering.
Q: Why is public service and pro bono work so important?
A: Because a civilized society requires a fair and unbiased legal system. It is imperative that we all do our part to ensure that every individual has access to quality legal representation without regard for one’s ability to pay.
Q: What makes our legal clinics a success?A: The quality of our faculty and our strong partnerships with the courts, bench, and bar both here in Toledo and beyond. Toledo Law’s clinical faculty members have all practiced in our areas of expertise and are able to pass along that real-world knowledge to our students. As alumni of The University of Toledo, we feel an even stronger commitment to create opportunities that will prepare our students for the successful practice of law or other related field.