Art Garcia does not shy away from hard work and exploration in his own life and this now translates into his service as a mediator. So, too, does his desire to serve others. From helping comfort and cure as an EMT and RN, to serving his country in the United States Marine Corps, Art has sought opportunities to serve. In this edition of “Meet Our Mediators”, I interviewed Art, one of our newest mediators. Like my father, and all Marines, he managed the ordeal that is Parris Island. Then he rose through hard work and an ability to manage many important moving parts to become a plane captain where he was responsible for overseeing the crew making sure all issues were addressed after one sortie and before another. His first “brush with the law” taught him that nice matters, even in the law; more on that later. In college, Art became an RN, then, while working in that field, decided to further his education by going to law school and went on to have a successful career as a trial lawyer handling all types of PI matters. Now, as a mediator, he brings all of the traits that have made him successful to date and his myriad experiences to serve those fortunate enough to have him mediate for them. And, as for mediation, Art firmly believes that “prior, proper, preparation” are necessary ingredients for success.
When did you first think about becoming a mediator?
I probably first thought about being a mediator before I knew what a mediator was. Thinking back thirty or so years when considering going to law school, while working in a burn center as an RN, I thought the job of the lawyer was that of a helper and problem solver when there’s a dispute. And it is. However, I admit, I had no contact with the law before law school, save one experience but shhhh, I’ll reveal that later. I saw the job of the attorney much like I see the mediator’s role today. I had to be a lawyer and advocate for a client first. I had to litigate. I had to go to trial and have the experiences that led to the next thought; is all this litigation necessary? I thought about every major conflict in history, ancient and modern times, and how most if not all ultimately ended. The peace obtained only after the parties left the field of battle and entered the field of understanding and talked. Unfortunately, diplomacy and pragmatism only had a chance after great cost. Myself, I was a Cold War Marine. Mutual annihilation was the bargaining position from which the parties negotiated and, even then, peace was found at the table where leaders talked. The willingness to talk should never be perceived as weakness in an enlightened society. As my litigation career marched forward, the more I thought that, if we can keep from blowing up the world, then there is no good reason we can’t work out a problem. We just need a little help. So, to answer the question, I think I always wanted to be a mediator even when I didn’t know what a mediator was.
What did you do before becoming a mediator?
I am not sure this blog is long enough for my meandering path. Some say I have been ambitious. Others say indecisive. The truth is I was raised to believe I could do anything if I worked hard enough and so I wanted to do it all. I was always willing to work. From cleaning parking lots, part-time, to the Marine Corps upon high school graduation. First, Parris Island boot camp. A basic rifleman Marine, a jet engine mechanic and a plane captain. I was assigned to an electronic warfare squadron; only one in the Marine Corps. and unique around the world. I worked and I became a sergeant. I traveled the world. After my time in the Corps. I pursued a college education. With the need to earn while I studied, I became an EMT first in North Carolina and then in Florida. I worked in a trauma center at night and studied during the day -- first my associate's and then my bachelor's. I studied nursing, graduated top of my class and went on to work in the hospital’s burn and trauma center. That’s where I was when I had the thought, “lawyer.” For the next 26 years, I was a litigator and trial attorney. My destiny was to be a mediator, and now I've arrived.
What is your favorite part of being a mediator?
My favorite part of being a mediator is helping the disputing parties find their way to a result that does not unnecessarily cause further pain, financial or otherwise. Helping the parties talk. I am reminded of the saying, "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool as a client." I think the client’s advocate has a hard time being objective twice in a case; trial and mediation. The mediator is that third voice and is the one who can help bring the understanding and insight, if not pure pragmatism, that oftentimes results in a resolution of the dispute. I love advocating for a process that is based on talking, understanding and peacemaking. Keep talking!
What do you wish people did more often in mediation?
Prepare in advance! And then listen! Not with a goal of rebutting what the other side just said but to understand what was just said. You don’t have to agree with what you heard but you should have listened so that you could be asking yourself, “what if?” Perception is reality.
What is something about you not too many people are aware of?
OK, I alluded to this earlier. My dad was a carpet installer, and Mom worked in retail. There are no lawyers or judges in my family. My first contact with the law was in college, after the Marine Corps. Driving home after leaving the gym, exhausted, my legs felt like Jell-O. I failed to react in time and I ran into the rear of a Mercedes stopped at a traffic light -- driven by a lawyer. That was my first contact with the law. And I’ll answer the question. No, I didn’t get the ticket. The other driver was not very pleasant to the police officer. So my first contact also came with my first lesson: Be nice!