Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Families in Conflict: A Holiday Super-Challenge!

The holidays present an extra special time of family conflict for so many of us. Children don't grow up expecting this as adults, but as I age I learn that our family is not alone in this dynamic. It's a time when expectations run high and memories deep. Last weekend, I took on an informal mediation between my husband and his mother to see if I could orchestrate a truce or at least change the dynamic between them so that next year may bring a less stressful holiday season. What I am discovering, as I go through the process, is that it takes a super skilled mediator to "self-mediate". While I profess not to take sides in this conflict, and indeed, objectively see both sides of the issues, the very nature of creating the environment (we've decided on neutral territory--neither one's home) and the timing (we've decided on dinner on New Year's Day--instead of Christmas) is a challenge. I'm curious whether any of my readers have attempted self-mediation within the family, or whether I am the only one who belongs to a family who doesn't live life in perfect harmony. Your thoughts and insights are welcome this time. This Christmas, Schau's Mediation Insights need you to contribute! May you be blessed with abiding peace, challenges and triumphs and above all gratitude!

P.S.: For those of you who have noticed, I took a few months "sabbatical" from blogging--having disclosed a few too many details about a mediation which I found challenging...but I'm back! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Lessons from the China Law Society

I had the privilege of meeting with 19 Delegates from the China Law Society this week. Judges, Lawyers and Business People came together to learn about Mediation principles from my colleague, Nikki Tolt and I. We met at the Southern California Mediation Association's office, which was a bonus because we could then make introductions to Judge Dorothy Nelson, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge and Najeeba Sayeed-Miller, Director of the Western Justice Center Foundation. It tuns out that Judge Nelson has visited China many times and is even a member of the China Law Society! She provided an extensive (and intimate) tour of the Federal Court of Appeals in Pasadena, and then entertained questions and made a brief presentation in her chambers--complete with fruit juice and chocolate biscuits! Then the delegation was treated to a brief tour and introduction to the Western Justice Foundation. As usual, I learned more from my "students" than they did from me. What I learned was that the Chinese value balance, harmony, perspective, respect, over law, rules, analysis, and business. The principles of mediation are tautologic to them. It is the principles of law that are new and challenging! Ancient Eastern principles seem so novel and creative to our Western culture. Even by the flash of cameras and the response to the presentation of mediation v. the Court house, it was obvious that the Chinese are way ahead of us in the world of mediation!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Peacemaker's Picnic

Today I attended (alright, I planned...) the Southern California Mediation Association's First Annual Peacemaker's Picnic! It was a great chance to see one another as people in relation to other people who are not necessarily mediators: mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, even dogs and masters gathered together to enjoy a hot dog, some pretty hiking trails, a great lawn for throwing a frisbee and some fresh, outside air. It was a great chance to see men unshaven, women in T-shirts and shorts, dirty feet and happy children...Often I think we take on so much responsibility to be sober truth-sayers, speakers of other people's truths, bearers of other people's conflict...that we don't take the time to see one another as participants in the human joys of life...like hot dogs and brownies and admiring other people's babies and ill-behaved dogs. Again, it's a matter of living life deliberately: including hard work and relaxation. A fine way to end a weekend!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Taking Time Out to Gain Perspective

I'm writing this from the cockpit of our new sailboat, "Time Out" on Catalina Island. I can't help but reflect on how taking some "time out" to do some perspective taking is such a healthy exercise. It is really why I ask every party mediating before me to come to my office--away from their usual trappings and try for a few hours to gain some perspective on the conflict their enmeshed in. I also had the pleasure of substitute teaching for a class at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution this week. Seeing mediation through the eyes of students was another perspective I had not taken the time to experience in quite awhile. Many of the students were also law students and my observation was stunning to me: being in the world of "law" and training to figure out who's right and who's going to win at trial is a real impediment to mediating!

So this week I'm thankful--that I have a chance to gain some perspective now and then...and that I have the blessing of inviting people in conflict to take a much needed "time out" to do the same.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Private Dialogues on Public Issues

While on vacation last week, I saw the Michael Moore's brilliant new documentary, "SIcko". We've all been there: in the place where we've hesitated about getting needed health care until we can figure out what's covered by insurance. So why isn't America discussing this issue? I've decided it's time for mediators to take a crack at it. I've invited an elite corps of commercial and community mediators together in the Fall to begin to promote public dialogue on the health care system in America. I intend to invite elected officials, insurance and hospital owners or at least managers and free clinic directors with a hope that this will begin a respectful process of discussing the issues, better understanding the various perspectives and lending our skill set to the fray with a goal towards initiating needed change. Why do movie producers get to have all of the fun? On another note, over my holiday I read my favorite book of all time, "A Thousand Splended Suns", by Khaled Hosseini. As agitated as I was after watching "SIcko", Hosseini's book made me feel darn lucky to have been born in America, raised my children in a land that valued personal freedom, and generally followed a code of law with which I could abide. If you have a summer vacation planned, I highly recommend you read it. It's haunting, but ultimately gratifying and beautifully written. The story takes place in more or less modern day Afghanistan, beginning in the 1970's. It is the story of two women's lives, how they intertwine and are affected by the political events over the past thirty years. It is written by the author of "The KiteRunner", which was also a fabulous read. Hosseini was born in Kabul, but has been in the United States since 1980. Bravo for bringing these stories to life and bringing these hard topics to American readers!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Interest Based Negotiation Applied Effectively

Last week I had the privilege of studying with Randolph Lowry, the President of Lipscomb University and one of the founders of both the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution and the Southern California Mediation Association, an organization of which I am the current President (18 years later!). Lowry co-taught a course on Advanced Mediation Skills with Judge Jack Etheridge, another founder of SIDR, retired Judge from Atlanta, Georgia. To be honest, the course seemed a bit elementary to me at the time. But this week, I had a mediation in which I applied my new-found "interest based negotiation" skills. I have learned from this blog experience, that I need to carefully disguise my facts to protect the confidentiality of the parties. So here's a quick synopsis of my fictional experience.

A mid-50's firefighter is out for his morning jog, when he is struck by a car and badly injured. As a result, he is unable to re-gain use of his right ankle, and accordingly has to accept an early retirement and is completely dependent upon his wife, a pre-school teacher, for basic, daily care. Their future is completely changed. Unfortunately, the driver has an insurance policy that is limited to $15/$30K, leaving them without a remedy that will provide enough funds for both the attorney and medical liens. Here was an instance where mediation was clearly more about the process than the outcome. I faced this bravely and strategically, preparing both sides for what I anticipated would be an emotional joint session. What I discovered, when I probed deeper, was that here was a couple whose life was out of their own control, beginning on the day of the accident. The victim of the accident was accustomed to "taking charge": he would be able to respond to an emergency and literally "put out fires". His wife, for her part, was used to imposing simple, human rules: show up, sit in your seat, wait your turn and speak up when called upon. The absence of the adverse driver from the proceeding infuriated them.

The resolution involved a promise by the insurance carrier to accompany the victim's lawyer to the home of the insured driver. They needed an explanation and proof that he was truly unable to do anything to compensate the victim or his family. This was more about "doing the right thing"--for both the insurance company and the victim and his wife, than about the monetary damages they had the potential to receive. The money was the easy part, but was clearly insufficient to satisfy them. What I learned from Lowry and Etheredge, however, was that the "law" only gives money as a remedy in civil actions. And this couple wanted something different.

This negotiation lasted all day, but resulted in a satisfying process and outcome for the participants and the mediator. Thank you, to Randy Lowry and Jack Etheridge, for giving this mediator the courage to explore the parties interests, even while knowing the positions and ultimate outcome.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

California Court of Appeals Affirms Mediation Confidentiality

The Court of Appeals (Second Circuit) issued it's opinion on the Wimsatt v. Kausch writ of mandate and upheld the mediation confidentiality statutes under California Evidence Code Sec. 1119. This was a proud moment for me, because I supported an amicus curiae brief (as President of the Southern California Mediation Association) and was present for the oral argument. In brief, the Plaintiff's were alleging that their own lawyer had committed malpractice by telling the defense counsel in an underlying airplane crash case that the case that he told his own clients was worth $3.5 million had a value closer to $1.5 million. The case was settled at a second mediation for about $1 million. Now, the Plaintiff's wanted to compel the production of the defense counsel's mediation brief and some e-mail communications between the two lawyers that took place the day before the second session of the mediation. The trial court denied the motion for protective order, out of concern that the protection requested might very well shield the plaintiff's former lawyer from claims for perjury as well as breach of fiduciary duty. The Court of Appeal disagreed. They really understood that the policy favoring settlement through frank conversation in a mediation trumped the possible abuses offered to counsel where evidence was prepared for, or in the course of a mediation. The Court did note that this may be unwise or impracticable, leaving the door open for the Supreme Court to act more critically in the case now before them in Simmons v. Ghaderi. Tough decisions, but certainly nice to read in black and white that the Court of Appeals honors the legislative scheme, even against their most solid judgment, to foster mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism that is meaningful and appreciated.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lessons from Recovery to Mediation

I had an interesting evening this Shabbat at the home of a Prison Rabbi. There, he described the process of "reaching" (with a view towards helping to "uncover" the good self within) of the prison inmates. It occurred to me that in so many instances, a courageous mediator is doing the same "uncovering" process: digging down deep to find the reasons for the behavior that lead to the initial conflict in order to "recover" the relationship or the basis for moving forward in harmony. In looking for an image to depict this thought process, I took a chance and googled "Uncovery"--a term I thought I invented! What I found was a bit of marketing research by Abraham Maslow. I share those here for you: How to Fill Your Customer's Needs

Ever hear of Maslow�s Hierarchy of Needs? If you are trying to uncover the critical information that will motivate potential customers to do business with you, if you are searching for the �meat� in your messaging, you really want to think about what Maslow had to say.

Abraham Maslow didn�t spin out his theories for marketers � he was conceiving an alternative to the more depressing, deterministic psychologies of the day. Maslow presented an optimistic view of human kind: folks are fundamentally focused on growth and love. Violence and other evils appear when basic human needs are not filled. So, for instance, denied a sense of safety, people might engage in violence to defend themselves, but they are not inherently violent.

This seems to me to be germane to both recovery, prison inmates, religion and mediation. In any case, it helps me to consider the pyramid ranging from physiologic needs to self-actualization. From "uncovery" to "recovery".

Saturday, June 9, 2007

On Secrets and Blogging

Well, it finally happened. My blog was picked up by google, which was searching for someone (name now confidential!) and lead her to one of my "musings" which apparently revealed far too much of a confidential mediation. Luckily, blogging also carries a "delete" feature--so that entry is now forever zapped away in the stroke of a key. And yet...

Mediation is a solitary, secret society. We hold confidences. We try new and innovative ways to resolve conflict, knowing if it fails (or if it succeeds) it will never be revealed. Even the negotiation is confidential, so that lawyers are not supposed to tell other lawyers what they tried and how it worked in a particular fact pattern. And yet...

But the internet is a different sort of creation. It is mass media writ larger than life! And so it strikes me that the wise mediator may have to keep mum from musing via this blogging tool. And yet...

Perhaps a brief hiatus and re-consideration/reconfiguration might be warranted in this instance. While I'm tempted to reveal my innermost musings in this fashion, perhaps it's ill-advised. And yet...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Making A Life while Earning A Living

This week's Musings involve Congratulations. My daughter, Rachel, graduated from California State University this week and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Special Education. There is a great triumph in graduating a child from College. Hooray for Rachel! My son, Jordan will graduate from Oakwood School (High School) on June 14, 2007. We are very proud of both of them (and our middle son, still in College at University of Wisconsin). So this week, I did some introspection not so much on the practice of mediation, but on the life it offers. The move from practicing litigation to practicing mediation is positively liberating. Although many of my days are long, I don't bear the burden of responsibility for the fate of my clients as I did in law. I don't answer to a Senior Partner, or advocate for positions which I don't believe in because I've been hired to do so. I rarely incur the wrath of an opposing party and am almost never treated with disrespect or disdain. It has taken me several years to get there, but finally I am earning what I earned as a lawyer, but making a life that is oh, so much more satisfying to my soul. And the best part is that I was able to actively participate in watching my children grow up to be such capable, caring, decent adults. That is a life worth living.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Collaborating with Fellow Peacemakers

This week was highlighted by a Quarterly Breakfast hosted by the Western Justice Center Foundation. The WJCF is dedicated to bringing together non-profit organizations whose mission is consistent with their own: finding ways to bring peace and justice to our community. I was thrilled to meet vibrant young spirits there who represent the United Nations' efforts to clean our environment, a nursing care advocate's rights group, a group dedicated to the rights of adolescent mom's, a group repesenting children of incarcerated parents and the Dispute Resolution Services representatives, who perform community mediation through the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Together, these fine individuals and organizations are changing the face of our community--tackling hard issues and helping to repair our broken spirits and uplift our optimistic souls. Bravo! Thanks go to Najeeba Syeed Miller, Director of the WJCF for bringing together this inspiring group and as importantly for sharing the vision originally proffered by Judge Dorothy Nelson, of the United States Court of Appeal, 9th Circuit, who was the Founder of the Western Justice Center Foundation. It is a worthwhile experiment which holds a world of promise for our future!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Authenticity and Angels

This has been an introspective week, colored in large part upon two women mediators who I hardly knew, but touched me deeply. On Tuesday, I heard Linda Meyer speak on "Authenticity" in mediation. Linda urged a group of SCMA members to seek out our true selves and approach every individual with our own humanity. She gave us permission to be "in the room" and a part of the process. She reminded us that settling a case was the easy part of a mediation--but connecting with the parties in conflict was our true art. Then on Thursday my colleague and fellow woman mediator, Holly Spevak succumbed to her battle with cancer. I only met Holly on one occasion, through a mutual friend, Susan Bulfinch. Holly had a website www.spevaklaw.com for her visitors' comments. I spent about 30 minutes yesterday reviewing how this elegant woman had touched lives--from Junior High to her own law students in so many ways. It made me think about the insularity of our business, and about the concomitant far reaching potential we hold. Although many of our clients will only see us once, we have the chance to touch them, to reach them, to connect to them in ways that may change their lives forever. This was clearly Holly's legacy. Happy Mother's Day to my readers (who of course include my own mom!). May the wisdom of our foremother's be forever in the forefront of our minds and hearts.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Doing the Right Thing Correctly

I took a wonderful Class this Week given by Peter Robinson, Dean of the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University and Robert Benjamin from Portland, Oregon. Peter spoke about the role of Apology in Mediation. I was struck by the discordance between what most of us agree is "good" and what most of us agree is "right". He offered the example of a child who throws a ball through the neighbors window. There, most of us would insist that our child go over to the neighbors, acknowledge his wrongdoing, offer to make reparations and ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, in a collision on the 405 Freeway, we would likely not consider offering to pay for the damages and asking for forgiveness on the scene, as this may wreak havoc with our insurance carrier's official "policy". I'll share a moment of grace from this past week. Many years ago, my husband and I had a falling out with a lawfirm where I was subletting over a series of errors in a document they were preparing for his business. We refused to pay the bill, and I lost my office. This week, for the first time in about 6 years, that attorney (now turned mediator) took me out to lunch. He reached out to me, acknowledged that he never felt good about the way that was handled and asked for our forgiveness, or at least understanding. I don't know whether it's a metaphor or reality, but since I saw this gentleman last, he has gone for a PHd in Divinity and lost 140 pounds. So he's been touched by grace and is substantially lighter than he was when last we saw one another. So the next time you stop to flog yourself over something you've done wrong--reach out to your assailed one, and apologize. It's right and good...and you may even find yourself lighter and feeling better all the way around!

Sunday, April 29, 2007


What a powerful surge of energy emanated from Washington, D.C. last week at the ABA Dispute Resolution Section's Conference. It seemed that everywhere I turned, I encountered iconic figures who have not only "made it" in the field of mediation, but guided it, shaped it, and drive it. Among those I was privileged to meet were: Ron Kelly, (as in the Northern Californian who drafted the California Evidence Code on Confidentiality), Jim Madison, Jay Folberg, Robert Creo, Erica Ariel Fox, Jim Melamed and Mel Rubin. Of course, I always relish the opportunity to be among our local heroes: Mickey Katz, Forrest (Woody) Mosten, Lee Jay Berman and June Lehrman. I was particularly gratified to present with Myer Sankary (what a great speaker and a great friend!) and Nancy Burrell. The setting was beautiful, but what transpired inside was really the impact of the week. At one point, I literally felt pulled or drawn into this field in a physical, basic way that felt so very comfortable, and yet energized. The conference was highlighted by plenary addresses by both Former Ambassador Dennis Ross and Former Senator Tom Daschle. Together, and independently, these men so validate and represent my political views and yearnings. Let's all hope that by the next visit to our nation's capital, the values presented by so many of our "former leaders" will be shouting through the hallowed halls of Congress and the White House!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

WOW--The Power Source For Mediators

I'm off to Washington, D.C. this week to Present a Talk on "The Source of Power of the Mediator" at the ABA's Dispute Resolution Conference, "ADR in Bloom". The gist of my presentation is that Mediators draw their Power from the power of WITNESS-OBSERVATION-And WIN/WIN/WIN. More exciting than that I am able to attend a full three days of the nation's best and brightest presenting their own perspectives on the tools and nuances we can access to bring mediation to the forefront and to assure that every disputant has a chance to use it. My presentation will be complemented by my colleague, Myer Sankary speaking on "The Power of Persuasion" and Nancy Burrell, a Professor of Communication at the University of Wisconsin, who will speak on The Power coming from Communication. See my website for the full Article on The Power of WOW.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Violence in Our Universities

Yesterday's tragic events at Virginia Tech compelled me to think about the value of dialogue, insisting upon inclusion even of those who would prefer reclusion or seclusion. When I searched for the proper image, I was struck by this photo. It is from Kent State University's violence and shootings, which took place in 1968, nearly 40 years ago. Unfortunately, I'm left to conclude that passions and differences still find their way onto Colleges and Universities throughout our nation, as we sit idly by hoping that it is but an isolated incident or aberration. As the mother of three college-aged children, I have to hope that I can be a part in instigating a more open environment towards ensuring the safety of our kids by giving an open valve for all students to communicate--their despair, their anguish, their fears, their hatred of others. The other facet which struck me was that this occurred the day after my name appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal in an article regarding "cross-cultural mediation". The subject of the article was my colleague, Hannah Kim, who was quoted as saying she had high hopes for her Korean mediation service because the Korean people were high-spirited and outspoken, often filled with unresolved conflict. I'm proud to add the quote that: "All mediators should be trained in cross-cultural sensitivity". In any case, it is a tragic sign that the young man who was the alleged "shooter" was a Korean, raised in our nation's capital, with a heavy animosity and loathing for rich kids and a sad disappointment in religion. I'm not sure I know the answer to this horrible event, but I'm beginning to understand the depth of the questions it raises.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Five Wishes

My friend, and blogger extraordinaire, Victoria Pynchon, has invited me to play a game of blogging tag. She's asked me to reveal 5 wishes that will make my world a better place. Since today is my BIRTHDAY, and I may have had at least five candles on my cake, I'll take a stab at this one:
1) I wish that my children and grandchildren will have as happy a family life as we 5 have had always!
2) I wish that I can make a contribution, every day, towards make our civilization kinder, gentler, more understanding.
3) I wish that the practice of mediation, as a metaphor for "positive interference" in people's lives grows exponentially, in my lifetime.
4) I wish America would have a woman President in my lifetime: just to see if feminine sensibility can positively impact our children's future.
5) I wish that everyone would/could find love, and compassion and a sense of belonging and purpose as I have.
So I'm feeling pretty lucky on this, my birthday, and I hope you will join me in saying "AMEN".

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Pondering The Third Side

I'm proud to have been invited to present a talk at the upcoming ABA Dispute Resolution Section Convention in Washington, D.C. "ADR in Bloom". Our talk is on "The Power of the Mediator" and my part of it has as it's premise lessons drawn from William Ury's "The Third Side". As I'm preparing the presentation, I've also somehow instinctively also acquired two new addresses for my mediation hearings: one in Century City and the other (through the Southern California Mediation Association) in Pasadena. So here's what I've concluded: The Mediator serves a valuable role if and when she goes out to the community to spread peace. Growing up in Los Angeles, I well remember the Watt's riots in the 60's and the fires and looting that followed the Rodney King incident in the 90's. Fire and violence, anger and unrest spread rapidly. It's time for us to light the torch for peace. Even as a geometric principal, by disputants coming to "my office", they leave their own offices, which are typically "war zones" and come to mine...which has sweets and calming artwork, light oak furniture and a Mezuzah on the door. I can now pray that "the Third Side" one day will be on every street corner, harking "Peace Now". That will be the day that ADR will fully be blooming. For now, we have global warming on our side...thawing out the Cold War era to who knows what's next?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Western Justice Center Foundations' Peer Mediation Invitational

Euphoria! Optimism! New Found Hope in our Future! Awe! These were some of the deep emotions I felt experiencing the Western Center for Justice Foundation's Peer Mediation Invitational yesterday. There, they gathered 60 Elementary School aged Peer Mediators for an observed Mediation "role play". One of the children I had the privilege to observe, Jasmine, had been a Peer Mediator for three years: and she was only in the 5th grade! The kids got to "agreement" and got to the "underlying issues" with such ease and innocence. It was truly remarkable. I was also privileged to Co-Coach with Justice Barry Russell, who is the presiding Judge in the US Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles. Justice Russell understands the value of mediation, and of "teaching our children". He is a Board member of the WCJF and took the day off to observe. I reminded him that he taught me bankruptcy at Loyola Law School way back in 1979. That was my last foray into bankruptcy, thankfully, but it was rewarding to find that he had come to the same place as I had--if only for the day. Justice Dorothy Nelson, of the U.S. Court of Appeal was equally charming and inspiring to the children (and their coaches!). I was struck by the openness of these kids to the notion that they can choose their own paths as adults. Some will choose the military, some will choose to be "Peacemakers" and others will aspire to be Judges, or athletes or artists. Their generation may indeed make a difference to ours. AMEN. Before the day was over, we danced with a multicultural band, Najeeba Sayeed-Miller, the Center's Director with her baby on her hip, dancing the very non-traditional Indian style...with many non-traditional followers! Great rewarding work. Thrilled to have the opportunity!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Participation in The Face of the OC Mediator a Great Experience

I was pleased and intrigued by the opportunity to participate in "The Face of the OC Mediator" conference on March 23, 2007. I addressed no less than about 30 eager men and women on the subject of "Gender and Negotiation: How it Affects both Process and Outcome". It was a great experience for me because it was such a great group of energetic and excited participants: eager to learn and practice, meet and mingle. I have high hopes that this seed has been planted and that with the sunshine and spirit of Orange County, the movement will continue to grow. The talk by Reverend Bill on multi-cultural mediation at the lunch break was nothing short of inspired. I hope that we can continue the dialogue and perhaps engage Father Bill in a Salon on the topic of "public mediation" and what we as individual independent mediators can do to help our community get along as it struggles through changes in makeup and identity. Kudos to my friends, Therese Gray and Debra Rocha for putting together such an awesome conference and standing behind this emergin movement in OC!

Los Angeles City Counsel Declares March 24, 2007 Mediation Day

What a thrill to be included in the Third Year of Mediation Recognition before the Los Angeles City Counsel. Counselwoman Wendy Greuel is enlightened enough to sponsor this Declaration, and Daniel Ben Zvi, our Chairperson, is gracious enough to allow SCMA to be represented through its leadership and alliances. This year, I appeared, together with Past President, Max Factor, III on behalf of SCMA, with Avis-Ridley Thomas, who runs the City of L.A.'s Mediation Program and The President-elect of the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, Randall Dean, and Scott Carr, Board Member of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers.

The most gratifying part for me was an interruption in the presentation by Councilman, Bill Rosendahl. Last year at this time, I was working towards convening a mediation on a heated housing issue in Councilman Rosendahl's district. Ultimately, the matter was mediated by Peter Robinson, Director of the Straus Institute. The battle was lost and the matter proceeded to trial...but the war may have been won nevertheless. Congressman Rosendahl spoke eloquently about how well the process works and how he experienced the value of the communication. Voila! That was all the recognition I needed...but the certificate is itself a thing of beauty and will be framed and hang proudly in SCMA's new Offices.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Challenge of Mediating Gang Violence

Here's the Challenge of the Week: I've been invited to participate with the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission to attempt to mediate the on-going, decades old gang violence which plagues our City. Apparently, there are about 50 civic leaders who have been meeting weekly for over a year, and are making little headway. A native of Los Angeles, I attended High School in the early 1970's in Inglewood. It was the beginnings of gang-affiliation, and even race riots. By the time I graduated, we found ourselves more divided and segregated than before the busing began: a failed experiment of forced integration. Unfortunately, these young gang members are now second generation: the children of my contemporaries. And unfortunately, most every family knows someone who has personally experienced violence or death in the name of solidarity amongst the members of a gang. I read an interesting folk wisdom story today that said: "A gun is not an arrow." What was meant by this is that an arrow is a good warning: "don't behave that way, because it can sting or wound". A gun, on the other hand, is usually fatal: no opportunity to change behavior, no warning. Perhaps, with a lot of help from spiritual sources, I can play a role in driving home that lesson. As they say, "you've got to hope for a fist-fight" in these situations. If we can get them to de-escalate, and approach conflict in a less drastic way, perhaps we can get a chance to sit them at a table to discuss their decades old misunderstanding. It's a challenge, but I'm thrilled by the opportunity!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Promise of Restorative Justice

I had an amazing experience last week at a Salon sponsored by the Southern California Mediation Association. We screened Rachel Libbert's excellent documentary "Beyond Conviction". There, she told the story of three victims and the perpetrators who had each been convicted of a violent crime against them, confronting one another. The power of the admissions and the inquisitions and the acceptance and healing was palpable. For me, the experience was only enhanced by the fact that I had invited a friend, Rabbi Yossi Carron to the screening. Yossi works as a Prison Chaplain in the L.A. Men's Central Jail. As he left, he whispered to me: "This is incredible. I want to screen this film at the Prison, to show it to "my guys", and let them see the power of apologizing and the promise of forgiveness and healing. And I want you to come (on behalf of SCMA) to explain how mediation works."

As a civil, commercial mediator, I don't have that sense of transformative mediation too often. Here, although I'm not sure I have the courage to facilitate this type of mediation, I felt for the first time that I had the power to change lives and even the penal system in California in a small way with enormous potential consequence.

I have not felt quite so excited by the power and promise of mediation since the day I finished "The Moral Imagination", by John Lederach. Rachel Libbert is to be congratulated. What an awesome undertaking.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

New and Improved Century City Hearing Space

I'm pleased to announce that as of March 5, 2007, I will have Office Space for Mediations in both Century City and Encino. Stop by to see my pretty new offices at: 1901 Avenue of the Stars. I'm on the Second Floor: Phone: 310-201-0990.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Diplomat Meets Mediator

The Association of Business Trial Lawyers boldly hosted Peter Robinson, co-Director of the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution, Robert Mnookin, Director of the Harvard Project on Negotiation, and Ambassador Dennis Ross, Special Middle-East Coordinator during the Clinton and Senior Bush administration at a dinner on February 13, 2007. What a fascinating presentation! I was struck by Ambassador Ross' stories on the Middle-East peace summits. His conduct was so insightful.

The Harvard Insight Initiative

What a phenomenal weekend I had last weekend at the Ojai Valley Spa & Resort with Erica Ariel Fox and Mark Thornton at the "Beyond Yes" Dialogue series sponsored by the Harvard Project on Negotiation. We chanted, we danced, we meditated and even did a little Tai Chi. In the presence of icons of the field, co-sponsored by the International Academy of Mediators, we considered the personality types within each of us, and present in every dispute. Our focus was getting to "center". It was a soul-serving, satiating experience of a rare glimpse of introspection: not into my skills, marketing acumen or well-being, but into my essence. Even without the expensive massage therapy, the weekend was nothing short of delicious, contemplative, relaxing and enlightening. Rock on, Erica!

The Moral Imagination: Book Review

John Lederach's new book, "The Moral Imagination" is an inspired introspection and a "call to disarms" for any mediator who understands the broader implications of our work. He notes that the principal distinction between that which has characterized the past century's peacemaking efforts and those inspired momentary instances which have succeeded in changing violent histories is simply this: we dare to dream--we view things through a lens tainted with a moral imagination. The book is awesome, and I've just begun. Recommend it to all those who view their mediation skills as more than a profession, but a "vocation".