Meet Our Mediators: Frederick J. Lauten
In this installment of “Meet our Mediators,” I interview Fred Lauten. I first met Fred almost 30 years ago and all along have considered him to be a true professional, keen legal mind and a good person. He has brought those attributes, and more, with him to Upchurch Watson White & Max, and I am pleased to introduce him to some of you.
When attending Rollins College in Winter Park, with intellectual curiosity and a desire to teach, Fred aspired to get a PhD in history. But thanks to a reality check on career prospects by the chair of the history department, experience as a law firm runner while an undergrad and a theater class, he was drawn to attend law school at Villanova. Thus started the path that took Fred to the bench, where he rose to serve as chief judge of the 9th Judicial Circuit, and that has now brought him to Upchurch, Watson, White & Max.
In theater, attention to detail let Fred successfully portray someone else in a different place and time, and made him a successful member of the troupe – hitting the lines, emotions, and spots. It also serves as a useful trait in the game of golf, which Fred fell in love with at Bay Hill. Like Larry Watson, a founding principal of UWWM, Fred shares a love of the game of golf with his son. Fred’s family has been an integral part of his relationship with golf, which has included opportunities to play in Dublin, and to be a spectator at golf’s mecca – Augusta National.
Attention to detail, being prepared, behaving professionally and avoiding making things personal were the traits that Fred saw in the most effective advocates in the courtroom. He believes those same traits are seen in the advocates who are also most effective in mediation. His ability to manage the complex, made possible by his attention to detail, were also a hallmark of Fred’s time overseeing the complex commercial division in Orange County where he handled myriad matters including construction, M&A and shareholder derivative actions. Now, Fred mediates cases from the simple to the complex and appreciates both as opportunities to meaningfully help others.
Please read on to learn more about Fred. And, if you are a golfer and see Fred on the links, please don’t hesitate to say hello. Just don’t do it during his backswing.
- What did you do before becoming a mediator?
For 26 years, I served as a judge in the 9th Judicial Circuit. I presided over criminal and civil cases including complex commercial cases. Prior to taking the bench, I worked as a prosecutor for 11 years and tried about 100 jury trials. I practiced communications law with a small firm in Washington D.C. in the early ’80s. I started practicing law in Central Florida in a small general practice law firm.
- When did you first think about becoming a mediator?
For my last five years on the bench, I served as chief judge of the 9th Circuit. When I became chief judge, my focus shifted from hearing individual cases to managing a complex court system. I learned that over 90 percent of civil cases settle before trial. I began to wonder about the dynamics of those cases that were not tried to verdict. That is when I became interested in the role of mediators. When I began my practice, mediation was rare, but, by the time I left the bench, mediation became a standard part of civil cases.
- What did you like most about your prior career?
As chief judge, I enjoyed managing the third largest circuit in the third largest state in the U.S. The challenges were substantial but the work was fascinating. As a trial judge, I enjoyed managing a trial docket and helping parties resolve their disputes in a system that often felt overwhelming to them. As a lawyer, I enjoyed serving clients by helping them navigate an often complex and confusing system. A special bond develops between the lawyer and client, and I enjoyed getting to know and help my clients.
- Where do you see the mediation profession in 10 years?
Mediators help parties resolve disputes. I love that. But the Covid-19 virus has pushed our profession forward by at least 10 years – allowing us to use technology to resolve disputes. Dealing with this virus has also pushed the court system forward technologically. I firmly believe this new use of technology will save our clients both time and money. Certainly, face-to-face mediation will continue, but using technology to expediate mediations, save costs, promote efficiency and provide convenience to participants is the future of mediation.
- What are the traits of the greatest lawyers you have known?
Humility, patience, intellectual curiosity, the ability to think critically and listen to others, respect for others and a strong work ethic.
For more of the inside story on our panel members, please see our "Meet Our Mediators" series.
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