Fran Tetunic- Alumna and Faculty Member Recognized for Leadership and Dedication
Both a faculty member and alumna of the Shepard Broad Law Center, Fran Tetunic was recently appointed by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules and Policy Committee of the Florida Supreme Court. The committee makes recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court regarding rules of practice for court-ordered mediation, court-ordered nonbinding arbitration, voluntary trial resolution, and court-connected voluntary binding arbitration, as well as the establishment of standards for training of court-appointed mediators and arbitrators. Tetunic previously served two terms as chair of the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Florida. In 2011, she was recognized for her near-decade-long leadership and dedication to the committee with the Florida Dispute Resolution Center Award of Appreciation.
Where are you from?
I grew up in the Bronx. I found school interesting and fun. I played the baritone horn in junior high school, was a cheerleader in high school, and a dance major at Hunter College.
Why did you choose to go to law school?
I watched Perry Mason as a child and aspired to be a lawyer. All of the men in my family were lawyers; I was the
first and only woman in my family to go to law school. Working for the New York City Department of Personnel as a personnel examiner reinforced my belief that knowledge of the law plays a critical part in making informed decisions.
Why did you choose the NSU Shepard Broad Law Center?
I came to the Law Center, which at the time was Nova Law, because I had just moved to South Florida and had heard good things about its faculty members and learning environment. True to what I heard, my law school experience was nothing like the traumatic experiences represented in the Paper Chase. Although we worked hard and stressed over providing insufficient answers in class, I found that the professors wanted us to succeed and were there to help us find our way.
Were you involved in any student organizations while a student at the Law Center?
I was the treasurer of the Public Interest Law Society. Interestingly, I am now the treasurer of the Public Interest Law Section of The Florida Bar.
What are your favorite memories of the Law Center both as a student and faculty member?
As a student, I was grateful to have the experience of representing clients while in the Family Law Clinic. I was pleased when my fellow clinic students chose me to receive the book award for the clinic. However, as we had brainstormed and collaborated on our cases, our work was truly a team effort. I also have fond memories of our eastside campus where everyone seemed to know everyone else, and we were a short distance from the courthouse. We lunched at Arnold's, our cafeteria, and held our Halloween costume party there. As law students we bonded for intensive experiences, such as Intensive Trial Advocacy, during which we got little sleep but learned much. The trust I had in my then classmates continues. I am gratified to see our graduates mentoring and hiring our students and new graduates. As a faculty member, I am proud of my Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Clinic students. Some formed business concepts during the clinic, developed their plans during Supervised Research with me, and established new ventures in the dispute resolution field. Clinic studentsâ€™ informal dissemination of information to our younger generation is an apt example of our students using their knowledge and skill for good and making a difference. The students also provided mediation services to divert juveniles from the juvenile justice system and helped them expunge their arrest records.
Who were your favorite professors and what were your favorite classes at the Law Center?
The professor for whom I most prepared for class was Mark Dobson when he taught Evidence. I enjoyed the challenge of not being handed the answers, while figuring out how to get something into evidence and how to keep something out of evidence. I also thoroughly enjoyed Professional Responsibility with Howard Messing and Family Law with Michael Burns. Current Constitutional Issues was a favorite course of mine.
Did you participate in a clinic while at the Law Center?
I was a Certified Legal Intern in the Family Law Clinic. Having an office in the law school where we transitioned from law students to attorneys was an invaluable experience. Most important was identifying what I did not know and figuring out how to learn it. As we represented our clients and employed our legal analysis skills on their behalf, we knew why we had withstood the rigors of law school. It all came together and finally made sense. We also learned the value of networking and learning from each other. Most important was remembering to take the high road and follow our conscience. We were, and are, our best judge and strongest critic. The lessons learned apply doubly in the social media context. If you would not want to read your email, text, post, etc., on the front page of the newspaper, then do not send it. Our reputations, hard earned, are easily lost. My former classmates generously share their knowledge and experience. I routinely impose upon them to speak to my students to provide insight into the real-world practice of law. I have also had the good fortune of working with alumni to develop our Alternative Dispute Resolution Clinic and Mediation Program. For example, thanks to Patrick Kokenge, a chief administrative judge at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), we were able to give students the opportunity to work on EEOC mediation cases. Thanks to another alumna, Melanie May, who was a Broward County juvenile court judge at the time, we were able to give our students the opportunity to mediate juvenile restitution cases at the courthouse.
Do you still keep in contact with classmates from the Law Center?
Recently, I met a classmate in the courthouse whom I had not seen for many years. When we met for lunch, we spoke as if we had never stopped. Bonds formed during law school are strong, and our chance meeting led to a welcome renewed friendship.
Do you have any advice for Law Center students?
My father advised me not to take the path of least resistance. I advise students not to necessarily take the trodden path. There are untraditional opportunities to put our skills to good use. With the growing interest in dispute resolution, individuals are finding rewarding opportunities. Lawyers and third-party neutrals are helping businesses prevent legal problems. Companies are employing the skills of facilitators, ombudsmen, and trainers, in addition to devising internal dispute resolution programs. Some lawyers assist clients in providing legal information to prevent problems, some are helping by teaching problem-solving and communication skills. Florida has been a leader in the field of mediation, and it can be a leader in the development and use of other dispute resolution processes. Perhaps the time to fully explore alternatives to the traditional means of resolving legal disputes has come. Better yet, perhaps we can find ways to help prevent the disputes. There are new doors to open and new paths to blaze.