Meet Our Mediators: Judi Lane

In this blog we introduce Central Florida Mediator  K. Judith (Judi) Lane. I had the pleasure of first mediating with Judi early in my career as a mediator. She was one of the most impressive negotiators I had ever seen. She was prepared, knowledgeable, tenacious, and well-informed about the interests of her client. Just as importantly, she was fully aware of the interests of the opposing parties that could affect their decision-making. It was clear she knew precisely how to use mediation and the mediator to the best advantage for her client. It was a pleasure mediating for her. I can’t help but confess that I am a member of the Judi Lane Admiration Association, of which there are many members. When she joined UWWM, I finally had the opportunity to ask her thoughts on negotiation and mediation and what brought her to this point in her distinguished career. I had no idea I played a role in that process, but I am enormously flattered by her words and can honestly say she kept me on my toes and taught me just as much as she says I taught her.

What did you do before becoming a mediator?

I practiced civil litigation for over 20 years. I’m also Board Certified in Business Litigation; however, during the course of my civil trial practice I have had the privilege of litigating a very broad range of cases, including all aspects of commercial litigation, employment, real estate, trusts/guardianships, personal injury, insurance, and other civil disputes.

When did you first think about becoming a mediator?

I thought about the art of negotiation when I attended my first mediation as a trial lawyer with David Hood. I watched him turn an absolute lemon of a case into lemonade for the client. It was brilliant. I immediately fell in love with the negotiation aspect of resolving disputes and I learned very quickly that the ability to negotiate effectively for your clients is paramount to being a successful litigator. I felt fortunate that the art and science of negotiation and drafting settlement agreements were a significant part of my training as an associate, much more than most lawyers get, I think.

How did you make the move from litigator to mediator?

I loved being a litigator and was extremely passionate about being a trial lawyer from the time I was a kid. I had always thought that the next chapter, for me, meant becoming a judge, but after being nominated by the JNC for a circuit court position I realized I might not be satisfied with that. I took a long hard look at what my “idea” of becoming a judge meant and decided I wasn’t ready to give up the work that I am most passionate about, using negotiation as a means of solving our clients’ problems in elegant and creative ways. I enjoy analyzing complex legal issues, working with other good lawyers around me, and helping people solve their problems in effective and efficient ways. I thought that what made me a good lawyer wasn’t merely good technical skills, but also the ability to think as a non-lawyer -- to understand what motivated my clients and what concerned them. I had to understand the people I was working with in order to obtain results that had value to them.  To do that well, you have to have excellent negotiating skills and superior people skills. 

At about that time, I went to lunch with Kim Sands and told her about my feelings and concerns related to becoming a judge, the opportunities I was weighing for the future, and she suggested I consider becoming a mediator and joining UWWM. I had worked with Kim and tried to get her as my clients’ mediator whenever possible. I loved mediating cases with her – not because they always settled (although they almost always did), but because she made the process so valuable to the lawyers and the clients. When you were done mediating, if you didn’t settle the case, you certainly knew every nook and cranny of your case and its strengths and weaknesses, and the clients not only gained a therapeutic relief from litigation through the mediation process, but also became certain of their best and worst scenarios to settlement. I knew instantly that she had pegged “it” for me; it was so obvious I still wonder how I missed it myself. I can still feel how great I felt when I came to the realization that I was meant to become a mediator.       

What is your favorite part of being a mediator?

Tackling really hard problems and trying to resolve them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every day it’s a new puzzle, with so many moving parts and only, in most cases, a short time to work it out. A good mediator can help the attorneys and their clients resolve tough legal or logistical problems by finding elegant solutions: Win-Wins, wherever possible.

Where do you see the mediation profession in 10 years?

Busy and still growing, but just as the legal profession has become saturated with lawyers, I see how mediation can become saturated with mediators. I don’t think there are “too many” mediators just like I don’t think there are “too many" lawyers. There is always room for gifted professionals. What I worry about is saturation of the market by mediators as a fungible commodity. If attorneys fail to recognize the real value of a skilled mediator as opposed to the cheapest mediator, the mediator who happens to have a free day on their calendar, or a warm body that is certified as a mediator (the way consumers of legal services sometimes fail to realize that they usually “get exactly what they pay for”), it reduces the process, leads to marginal results and causes people to doubt the efficacy of ADR as a means to settle disputes. Mediators are not fungible just like lawyers are not fungible. In 10 years, I hope lawyers recognize the value of mediation with the right mediator as the valuable tool it can be to the litigator and the client, as well as an alternative to litigation.

Did you have a mentor? How did he/she influence you?

The Honorable Jacqueline Griffin: She taught me that you can never work too hard or write (and re-write and re-write) too much in your quest for the perfect legal answer. She showed me what it looks like – and how much work and intellect it takes -- to be a truly brilliant legal scholar and a dignified, commanding and graceful lawyer.  She taught me that it was our duty to the profession to strive for those qualities at all times.

The Honorable David Hood: He taught me how to negotiate, how to think creatively and how to seek and find elegant and synergistic solutions to legal problems whenever possible. He taught me how to make a living as a lawyer and how to cultivate a thriving law practice. He also taught me, by example, how to work and work and work and work and to never give up.

UWWM Partner Kimberly Sands: She taught me, and is still teaching me, the art and science of being a gifted negotiator. What I appreciated in Kim, and why I used her as my mediator whenever I could when I was a lawyer, were a number of qualities that she brought to bear in dispute resolution: First, she is so bright and capable of picking up any area of the law very, very quickly; in addition to that, as a mediator, she is a great communicator, shows constant alertness, has a great sense of humor and demeanor that is disarming and reassuring. She speaks with credibility, demonstrates objectivity and self-control, and is adaptable.  She is tenacious, takes initiative, and works hard to resolve her clients’ disputes.  I am trying to emulate those characteristics.

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