Brady Foster ’21 knew that Terrace on the Park restaurant in Corona, Queens was the perfect spot for a marriage proposal this past December. There was the Manhattan skyline to take in, a family tradition to uphold, and—maybe best of all for a diehard Mets fan—his beloved Citi Field in clear view. It was also just a short ride to St. John’s Law, where he and his now fiancée, Gia Fernicola ‘21, met three years ago.
“It was day one of our 1L year and Brady sat right next to me in Professor Cavanaugh’s Civil Procedure class,” Gia says of the start of this Law School love story. The story continued to unfold as the two explored a mutual interest in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) through upper-level courses offered at St. John’s under the auspices of the Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution led by Professor and Assistant Dean of Dispute Resolution Programs Elayne E. Greenberg.
“As we see it, life is too short to litigate,” Gia explains. “Plus, most cases never see a courtroom. So, we knew it would be useful to learn how to operate in the range of ADR settings. Being so interpersonal in nature, ADR also teaches general life lessons that anyone, even non-lawyers, can benefit from.” Together, Gia and Brady took Mediation: Representing Clients and ADR Advocacy and quickly saw that they could apply the knowledge and skills they were gaining to their own relationship.
One of his biggest takeaways from the two courses, Brady shares, is how important it is to understand the other side of an argument. “Just like in legal disputes, there’s always a reason why someone feels the way they do, and a lot of the time it’s something beneath the surface that needs to be uncovered,” he says. “Any relationship can benefit from that understanding, getting to the root of an argument. It may even be more important in romantic relationships, since multiple disputes can have the same root cause.”
Taking ADR courses at St. John’s Law was also a formative experience for Gia, personally and interpersonally. “I’m a very outspoken, extroverted person,” she says. “The ADR courses taught me to think before I speak and that, sometimes, silence is a good thing. This simple lesson I learned when mediating or negotiating can be applied to my relationship with Brady. If we’re ever in an argument, I remind myself that it’s okay to stay silent—to embrace it. Sometimes, silence is what you need to cool off, to avoid saying anything in anger, and to collect your thoughts.”
As they prepare to graduate from St. John’s next month, start their careers, and marry in May of 2023, Brady and Gia look forward to building on their ADR skillsets. “Problem solving is at the heart of ADR and any healthy and successful relationship, whether business or personal” Gia notes. “The problem-solving approaches we honed in class, and all of the ADR lessons we learned, flow into and complement one another, and we’re thankful for them.”