Monday, May 25, 2009

New Podcast Series on Mediation Available

By John L. Watkins

If you want to know more about mediation, a new three-part podcast series on mediation is available on the Chorey, Taylor & Feil website, at www.ctflegal/podcasts.html or on the firm's page on the Blip TV site, http://www.ctflegal.blip.tv/. The series includes an introduction to mediation that contrasts the civil litigation system to mediation. The second podcast provides a detailed explanation of how the mediation process works. The third podcast discusses how to pick the right mediator for a particular dispute.

The podcasts include a few fairly strong opinions, which are mine, and which have developed over time. I have been involved in representing parties in mediation for about twenty years (mediation came into widespread use in a Georgia a few years after I began practicing law). One of my early bosses and mentors, Jack Watson, chaired the Georgia Commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution at the time. Through Jack's prodding, all of us who were then in the litigation department at Long, Aldridge & Norman (now McKenna Long & Aldridge) got a good dose of exposure to mediation and mediation training, whether we wanted to or not!

Early on, I was very skeptical of mediation. It seemed to me to be just another step inserted into the civil litigation process, and, frankly, just an excuse for lawyers or retired judges to make money. After all, good lawyers settled cases anyway, so why would anyone need a mediator?

Some of my early experiences in mediation validated my initial point of view. I remember one painful mediation involving a much older lawyer acting as a mediator. All he did, in a somewhat whiny voice, was to point out the expense of litigation and to say, "A bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit." This particular mediation was a totally worthless experience. (For the record, I do not see why you ought to take a bad settlement if you have a good lawsuit. The goal of mediaiton should be a fair settlement).

At some point, however, I was exposed to really good mediators, such as Abe Ordover of the now-defunct Resolution Resources Corporation. Abe had a truly magical touch as a mediator. I saw him and other good mediators, such as Marty Ellin, help resolve cases that were difficult to settle, and that, in some instances, seemed "unsettleable." Unfortunately, at least for those of us who need good mediators in Atlanta, Abe moved to San Diego several years ago. Abe is now running an art gallery (Abe is an extremely talented photographer in his own right).

Not being completely set in my ways, early views of mediation changed drastically, and I became and remain a great proponent of the process. In my last ten to twelve years at McKenna Long & Aldridge, a great deal of my practice involved cases outside of Georgia. These cases ranged from fairly routine business litigation matters to huge cases involving many parties and lots of exposure. This experience gave me an opportunity to see mediators from other parts of the country, including a few of the more nationally known "rock stars" in mediation.

Although the experience was great, and McKenna was (and is) a great firm, the travel was not so great. When I left McKenna in 2007, ultimately having the good fortune of joining Chorey Taylor & Feil, my practice returned to being, in general, more local in nature. I felt it was a good opportunity to try to share my knowledge of mediation. As a result, I became a registered mediator with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution, and also started a mediation website, http://www.watkinsmediation.com/, which contains articles with my thoughts on mediation. Most of the content on the watkinsmediation site is also available on the CTF website at http://www.ctflegal.com/mediation.html. Just click the links on the bottom of the page for articles on basic mediation and advanced mediation. I hope the podcast series will also provide valuable information.

When I announced I was available to act as a mediator, many of my colleagues in the legal community apparently thought I was retiring from practicing law. That is most definitely not the case, and the vast majority of my time is spent practicing law. However, I have found that crusty old litigators tend to make great part time mediators. Although I do not feel old, and I hope I'm not "crusty," I am available, through Chorey, Taylor & Feil, to act as a mediator. My colleague, Celeste McCollough, is also a registered mediator and is available to mediate through the firm.

The firm has excellent facilities for mediation, and we do not charge an administrative fee.

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