Did you know that among our thirty-six mediators, there are graduates of seventeen different law schools? I didn’t. More interestingly, did you know we have a published novelist, dedicated volunteers and accomplished athletes among us? Like you, our mediators have varied pursuits outside the office and have been shaped by their experiences. And the aspects of their lives that make them who they are aren’t the typical subject of a bio or résumé. So, to learn more about our exceptional team of dedicated mediators, we are commencing what we hope you will find both informative and enjoyable. Over the coming months, Kimberly Sands and I will present interviews of our mediators in our new “Meet Our Mediators” blog series.
As we will present our newest panelists first, we begin with Florida State College of Law Dean Emeritus Donald J. “Don” Weidner. Dean Weidner, after a distinguished career in academia and educational leadership joined our team in August. Don has touched the lives of legal practitioners all over, thanks to a teaching career which has gone from being an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, to serving as associate professor at Cleveland State University, where he taught real estate taxation and finance among other thing, to his storied tenure at FSU, where he rose from being a visiting professor to serving as dean of the law school for almost 25 years. But what I find most fascinating and endearing is his unbridled optimism and well placed confidence. How else can you describe someone who thinks it’s a good idea to buy a 36-foot sail boat, before knowing how to sail, who then becomes a skilled and avid boater? He was not stricken with analysis paralysis, opened a door to an important part of his life, and has even written a short story about that first step. You can find it in the September 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.
When did you first think about becoming a mediator?
I first thought of being a mediator when I served on a panel of arbitrators in very formal proceedings that required us to pick a single winner. Although the panel all agreed on the winner, we also all agreed that the best solution would have been a middle ground. An engaged neutral might have encouraged the parties to enter into conversations that would have helped them reach that middle ground.
What did you like most about your prior career?
As dean of the law school, I loved helping to move the institution forward in a way that made everyone feel even greater pride in it. Greater quality and recognition resulted, to the benefit of our students and alumni.
What is your favorite part of being a mediator?
Seeing both parties take satisfaction in an outcome.
What are the traits of the greatest lawyers you have known?
Focus, passion and empathy.
Did you have a mentor? How did he/she influence you?
Soia Mentschikoff was my mentor at the University of Chicago when I was a teaching fellow and she was on the faculty there. She taught me that the best business statutes are written in the language of the people to whom they apply and that business lawyers need to understand the working world of their clients. She got me my first job in law teaching and, after I was on the Florida State faculty and she had become dean at the University of Miami, she had me come down on my December breaks to teach in Miami's LL.M. (Master of Laws) program in estate planning.