Bradley Roth is an attorney, mediator, and adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He co-founded and chairs Mediators Beyond Borders International New York (MBBI-NY) and is an active member of the MBBI United Nations Multilateral Working Group. He works as an attorney on a pro bono basis in diverse areas of the law, such as immigration law and voter rights and protection, assists attorneys seeking to transition in their practices, and volunteers to provide a range of mediation services.
A long and winding road to legal work
During his undergraduate years at Johns Hopkins University, Brad majored in Western philosophy but found it did not answer his questions about the nature, meaning and purpose of life. He began a self-study of Eastern philosophy and after graduating, inspired by Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, he traveled to India to pursue his studies in depth. While in India, he recounts, “my inquiry led to transformative spiritual experiences that answered many of my philosophical questions. I realized that while all human beings are separate, this separateness obscures a shared awareness without boundaries.”
After two years of study in India and other countries, Brad decided to forego the preparation for an academic or legal career that he had previously contemplated and instead began working for a diverse range of non-profit organizations focused on bringing about positive change in social and environmental policy and advancing individual and collective development. He eventually determined that a law degree would better equip him to play an effective role in these organizations, and he enrolled in the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Interest in Mediation
Brad initially developed an interest in mediation during a year-long clinic offered by his law school. What resonated with him most strongly was mediation’s capacity to see conflict through creative and positive lenses, uniting or synthesizing seemingly disparate perspectives and interests. He saw it as not solely an approach to resolve disputes but one with a more universal application. “Mediation,” he says “can create space for individuals to tell their stories, to be heard, to be seen, and potentially, to see each other in the context of non-separation. Ultimately, mediation can enable those experiencing conflicts to experience our one, common humanity with no real separation in the nature that we all share.” While earning his J.D., Brad became certified as a mediator and he has mediated in New York courts, community centers, at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and as a private practitioner.
A long-standing commitment to MBBI
Explaining how he became involved with MBBI, Brad states “many diverse organizations are working effectively to bring about positive change, but I was drawn to the ‘beyond borders’ concept and the organization’s commitment to go beyond nation-state perspectives to tackle global issues. Mediation gives participants the space to explore the interests of other parties to generate creative, and sometimes previously unimaginable, outcomes. I believe this type of approach is required in order to successfully address so many of the challenges facing humanity today.” Brad was also impressed by the dedication of MBBI members—volunteers for the most part—committing their time and effort to enhance peacebuilding capacity at all levels and to promote the use of mediation worldwide to prevent and resolve conflicts.
Brad has worked with MBBI since 2011, when he co-founded the New York group. “With the work MBBI was doing with the United Nations, we felt that a local group could serve as a liaison between MBBI efforts with the UN and the community of mediators in New York City.” In 2012, the group started to hold monthly meetings as well as to engage in local activities, including the provision of free mediation trainings to leaders of the regional Liberian diaspora community. Brad co-wrote an article capturing this initiative. The MBBI-NY group periodically hosts and organizes events for MBBI delegations attending major UN conferences, such as meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women and the High-Level Political Forum. Brad also works closely with the MBBI UN Multilateral Group, engaged with fostering partnerships and advocating for mediation and conflict prevention capacity-building efforts at the UN level. Additionally, he co-hosts or moderates numerous MBBI-NY webinars and events.
Sharing his expertise with students
Since 2019, Brad has been teaching the undergraduate course Mediation & Meditation at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He was inspired to create the course after attending a similarly titled workshop offered by Thomas Hübl and William Ury, the latter a co-author of a groundbreaking book in negotiation, Getting to Yes. In the course, Brad introduces aspiring lawyers, mediators, forensic psychologists, social workers, criminal justice specialists, and others to the concept that the practice of meditation and mindfulness can help in the development of mediation skills. “Teaching this course is one of the activities I value the most, not least because it brings together two of the topics most meaningful to me: meditation and mediation.”
One of Brad’s primary interests is to further explore and develop the connections between inner development and positive outer change in both the legal and mediation fields. He is a member of the Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law, and Politics, “an international network of lawyers, law professors, law students, legal workers, and others who are seeking to develop a new spiritually-informed approach to law and social change.” He presented Reflections on Mediation and Meditation at the Association for Conflict Resolution Greater New York (ACR-GNY) 2020 Annual Conference, co-hosted the MBBI-NY webinar, Inner Stillness & Peacebuilding, and invited the co-authors of Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen from the Heart to reflect on the connection between mediation and evolving one’s world views.
Interview by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer