Sunday, September 26, 2010

Being a California Lawyer

I was invited to present at this year's Annual California State Bar Conference on the topic of "Winning your Case without going to Trial" with my colleague, Hon. Joe Hilberman. We had a great audience who were respectful, engaged and even, I dare say, introspective about the direction of access to justice and their own markers for professional success. The conference took place in sunny, beautiful Monterey, California and was, in almost every way, a breath of fresh air. I hadn't appreciated that I am so routinely surrounded by lawyers zealously advocating their client's positions, embroiled in conflict, adversarial that I had nearly forgotten how congenial, friendly, even intellectually engaged a group of lawyers can be when there are no client's around! The attendees were enormously diverse in age, geographic origin and perhaps even worldview (although not very diverse ethnically). Yet they came with a common purpose which probably began with securing their continuing education credit but ended with their broadening their education in areas of ethics, the psychology of bias, techniques and future-thinking in new areas of the law. In the end, new friendships and old were forged and we experienced that although advocates in the courtroom, we share more in common than differences. Great conference.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Steering from the Back of the Boat

Today's New York Times Business Section had an interesting interview of Anne Berkowitch, co-founder and Chief Executive of "SelectMinds", a social networking company in Manhattan. She talked about the keys to effective leadership and listed the most important as "being able to listen to people." She analogized to "steering from the back of the boat" as opposed to being the military general in front of the troops and the first one rushing into battle. As many of my readers know, my husband and I are avid sailors, so the metaphor really struck me as to the reason mediation can be so effective. The mediator is trained to do exactly as Berkowitch advocates. We bring together a group of people, get the best of them and get them wanting to work as a unit toward some goal post (settlement/resolution of their conflict). We listen to them, trying to understand what really motivates them (or is driving the conflict) and then get them to push themselves beyond their comfort zones. As I go off to relax on the boat this holiday weekend, I will be so happy to carry the metaphor into my week as the key to successful settlements of dispute. I wish you fair winds and smooth sailing!