Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Morning Congress Conflict Commentary

The on-line mediator discussion groups are buzzing about how mediation could help congress with the current budget mess. There's talk of bringing Bill Clinton in to act as mediator.

I have a somewhat different perspective.  As I see it, now is the time to enlist, position, and anoint a mediator as our national conflict expert so the American people (not congress) can start learning about mediation and the role the process can play when its time for an ugly conversation. 

Because congress is too pig-headed to actually allow a mediator to help what we (mediators) should be doing is getting on TV to show the American people what could be done. Mediation is just assisted negotiation.  Clearly congress needs assistance with their negotiations. But, they don't want assistance. The American people need to be using their "persuasive techniques." We mediators just need to educate the people about how that works.

This is also a great time to promote the idea of electing mediators to public office. The bottom line is this mess was - to a large extent - created by the special interests who are running the show.  And, its going to be a difficult battle ahead.  However, if we had some mediators in congress we would be in much better shape. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The Yiddish word Tsuris (tso͝oris) is translated as troubles or problems. But, the feeling (and the punch) of the word is lost in translation. The word tsuris goes beyond problems. The connotation is insurmountable difficulties or woes of the worst kind. Interestingly, the word tsuris is almost always used as a plural - this must be because problems that are judged as tsuris always travel in packs.

Recently a friend was complaining about her "situation."  I felt little sympathy but wasn't sure why. (I am not usually so heartless.)  And then I realized that she had knowingly created the mess AND she had the power (but it would take some unpleasantness) to clean it up.

There are two kinds of problems: the ones we create and the ones that fall into our laps. After an honest assessment regarding one's level of responsibility, these two types of problems can be viewed with different lenses. And then, after the brief analysis of problem creation, its time to move onto problem solution. Problems have two possible outcomes. Some I have the power to solve. And, some are outside of my sphere of influence - I cannot really do anything about them.  When faced with a problem that I have the power to solve I have to get to it. When faced with a problem that I cannot solve, all I can do is let go and be patient as the resolution unfolds.

If you are faced with problem/s. Take a good look.  How much did you bring on yourself? How much is truly uninvited? (This might be the universe giving you a wake-up call.)  While it might mean an unpleasant undertaking, is it within your power to solve your problem? Or is what happens next beyond your control?

May your have no tsuris.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Friendly Divorce Trend Discussed in WSJ

This article - from Saturday's Wall Street Journal - provides an excellent explanation of one of the key cultural factors that is fueling the trend away from attorney-driven divorce and towards the more humane and family-friendly approach.

North Central Florida Mediators

We (the host committee Linda Chapman, Martha Johnston, Kevin Lunsford, and me - Elinor Robin) are holding the kick-off meeting of the Association of North Central Florida Mediators today at noon at the Northwest Grille, which is located at 5115 NW 39th Ave, Gainesville.  Please join us.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony Thoughts

What do you think motivates those people who seem obsessed with seeing Casey Anthony fry?  Why do these over reactors wait for hours to get into the courthouse?  Yes, this is a very sad case but it seems to me that the Nancy Grace clones are more about being judgmental than just.   

Jeff Ashton did not prove Casey guilty of murder.  But, he did prove himself a jerk - for example - during the closing when Jose Baez was speaking and he was laughing. Baez got angry and called him "laughing man." What was Ashton thinking? Someone is on trial - facing death - and he is laughing. Surely, this cost him with the jury. In my mind this was a manslaughter case that he tried to turn into a lifetime achievement.  The whole thing was a huge waste of limited resources.

As to Casey, as we speak, she is probably working on the book, her contract with Playboy, and her new dancing act.  But, don't worry.  She may walk this time but this damaged human being is a walking time bomb.  Clearly, she is not going to go forward and have a nice, normal life.  

Finally, and most important, what about the millions of children who are abused, abandoned, and neglected each year?  Who is outraged about them?  If one really cares about children it would be much more productive to focus some attention and anger to a bigger cause, and help the next Caylee Anthony.   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We all give a little

Donny Deutch this morning on MSNBC talking about possible tax increases:  "Forget for a minute that you are a Republican.  Doesn't it make sense that we all give a little - especially the richest?"  Talk about common sense.  Why doesn't congress see that? 

Why doesn't Donny Deutch have a Face Book page?  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Advice For The Novice and Wanna-be Mediator

Recently, in an on-line mediator forum someone posted the following question.  "I'm a lawyer with twenty-one years of experience in a variety of types of law.  I'm thinking of shifting gears and mediation might be a great next step for me. Does anyone have any tips? How did you decide to become a mediator? What courses or training materials helped you? Did you have anything particular in your background that you found especially helpful? Any guidance appreciated."

A long dialogue between mediators ensued.  I contributed four times to the discussion.  Here's what I had to say:

Post #1.  In my opinion, before you make any decisions there are some significant pieces of information you will need. First, does your state certify mediators? If so you will want to go to a training program approved by your local courts. Basically mediators fall into two categories - family/divorce and commercial/civil. While you may decide to be trained in both areas it is important - for marketing and other purposes - that you are clear on who you are (your brand) and what you are "selling." When you say "shift gears" I am assuming that you are talking about giving up the practice of law and become a full-time mediator. In order to make that happen you will need both mediation competence and good connections. Talk to some lawyers who have successfully made the transition and see what they say. I also suggest you read Tammy Lenski's book - "Making Mediation Your Day Job." Finally, if you decide that you will be a family/divorce mediator you will also want to decide if your target market is represented parties or pro-se couples. If you decide that you want to build a practice in the growing field of pro-se/pre-suit divorce mediation please consider attending my upcoming training - Friendly Divorce Mediation Training: Make Money, Make a Difference -  I wish you all the best in your new endeavor. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions that I can answer for you.

Post #2.  In the current economy it is wise to pursue multiple streams of income. Mediation can provide a steady income stream if you are committed to investing the time and effort necessary for building a business that provides a quality product. Mediators can use (a) court annexed programs to build connections and gain experience and (b) administrative agency cases to supplement a private practice. However, the mainstay of a mediation practice should be client elected cases in a niche market. Like all service businesses the mediator must actively market him/herself and offer clients real value.

Post #3.  It just so happens that we are in the right place at the right time. The legal services industry is undergoing a huge shift and as mediators we can strategically position ourselves to benefit from the shift. Take a look at this article from the recent edition of the ABA Journal. Law Job Stagnation May Have Started Before the Recession—And It May Be a Sign of Lasting Change

Post #4.  I agree with Sam about the challenges we face as a profession.  Yes, we should have followed the social work model when training standards were created thirty years ago.  And, we still have no national voice, lobbyist, or PR spokesperson.  Oh well.  We are a profession in its infancy.  Twenty years from now this profession will look very different.  (Just notice how many universities are now offering programs in mediation and conflict management.)  Often people who take my 40-hour training do not get certified, never mediate a case, and still tell me that the training changed their lives because it changed the way they look at and handle conflict.  Yes, Sam is correct; there are many mediocre mediators out there.  (But, there are many mediocre lawyers, doctors, and waiters too.)  The market has a way of sorting out the good from the bad.  I do not like the 40-hour training concept.  However, I know that the first 40-hours are just an intro.  Those who want to really learn the craft need to keep current with continuing ed.  But, on the flip side, since mediation is so much more of an art than a science, without some natural talent all the training in the world cannot make certain personality types masterful mediators. And, while competence is important, it’s not enough.  I believe that building a mediation practice is all about marketing -  which I define as the ability to convey a vision of how one's product/service can give the client/customer value. If you can do that you can succeed as a mediator or anything else.