The dispute does belong to the parties. Recently, a very good lawyer thanked me profusely for NOT settling his case. He had gone on to conclude the litigation by a very successful jury trial. But he was sorely afraid I was going to settle his case at mediation. I have learned that lesson, and now that I have been able to let go of the ownership of your dispute, my settlement rate continues to increase.
I have thus developed a strategically flexible approach to mediation that is designed to support both counsel and party. I am the “Ways and Means Chairman” but not a constituent. My primary role is to provide a ways and means for the parties, through counsel, to constructively and responsibly create their own solution to conflict. I do this, quite simply, by having a safe and secure place in an unbiased atmosphere where they can discuss their case and negotiate their positions. I am just here to help.
And so, while I do want to reach a settlement, I am committed to supporting the attorneys I work with to reach a common goal – a satisfied client. I am acutely attuned to the many challenges an attorney faces in litigation, in our civil justice system and particularly in mediation. My client is the system. My role is to assist counsel in providing their client(s) a realistic evaluation of the alternatives possible/likely in the event settlement is not achieved. Once armed with that assessment, together they may then make an informed decision to settle, or to not settle. Once that has occurred, I have done my job.
My philosophy in arbitration is very simple. Having tried cases for the better part of thirty years, I have fond memories of the best judges I have appeared before. As an Arbitrator, counsel and the parties expect me to provide them a cost-effective, practical and timely alternative to traditional litigation. No more and no less. And so, I try to run my arbitration hearings like my most favorite judges did in their court, enhancing that experience by taking advantages of the flexibility and informality that arbitration provides. I am a strong advocate of adopting some of the techniques of international arbitration into the domestic arbitration arena. I have taught the Arbitration Advocacy course for the American Arbitration Association and others, and I firmly believe that arbitration can be, if properly administered, a vastly beneficial alternative to traditional court litigation (before someone who gets elected based upon contributions from those that appear before them).