Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Rare Transformative Experience

Mediation isn't always measured by how much or how little money is exchanged. Last week, I had a wage and hour claim against an employer who was going to be unable to pay even a small percentage of the Plaintiff's demand. Nevertheless, this young woman was a part of the extended family of the former "employer". She had lived with the family for several years when she first came to this country and genuinely endeared herself to the "host" family until they had an apparent falling out--when she disappeared without saying goodbye and without explanation. It became obvious early in the session, that this matter was not going to be settled for anything close to the "value" and that neither side was adequately capitalized to try the case, given the slim prospect of collecting upon any eventual judgment. So I took a chance. I orchestrated a meeting with some of the family members (two sisters) and the Plaintiff. There were no attorneys present (except me) and the session was conducted in a foreign language (which I understood, but in which I did not contribute). There were tears (including mine!) and hugs and an offer to settle which was within a few hundred dollars of the ultimate resolution. Although nobody felt satisfied that the case had to be resolved in this way, it at least offered an opportunity for soothing old hurts, answering unasked questions and most importantly, given people a chance to make a gesture towards restoring relationships which may prove to be mutually beneficial in the future. If you can't get money, it's gratifying to see you can sometimes get hugs, laughter and even tears! This was a rather unique experience in my litigation-driven practice, but ever so rewarding to me and the other participants!