Curiosity is a hallmark of effective mediators. Curiosity is also what makes for an avid reader. Karen Brimmer is both. In this installment of Meet our Mediators, we are proud to introduce Karen, who joined Upchurch Watson White & Max recently.
Like several of us, Karen wanted to be a teacher when headed to college. But, when her classmates at William & Mary started talking about applying to law school, that path became clear for her. After she completed her major in history and minor in English, the city of Miami and the University of Miami beckoned. Although she had traveled growing up, moving around as the child of a Marine, she had never been to Florida. And she liked it so much in South Florida, she decided to plant roots and start her career in Miami.
Interested in her reading list? Seeking knowledge, understanding and entertainment, Karen splits her reading time between fiction and non-fiction titles. If you ask her what the most influential title has been, she will be quick to point out Charlotte Bronte’s "Jane Eyre." That novel, introduced to her by her sixth-grade teacher, so profoundly captured her imagination, it established a lifelong love of the written word. It may well have even contributed to her decisions to study both history and English.
And, of course, we all know the importance of the written word to lawyers. As a litigator, Karen’s practice has been diverse and, among other areas, it included first-party insurance, personal injury, professional liability and employment. Her litigation experience and the skills that now contribute to her being a good mediator also contributed to her role as a co-partner-in-charge of Hinshaw Culbertson. Curiosity, and seeing how different people with differing interests can come together for a common purpose or common ground were a part of her management experience and are invaluable now for the parties and lawyers she serves in mediation.
I hope you enjoy learning more about Karen. And please join Karen and I as we discuss mediating employment disputes in our upcoming Webinar at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 27, 2021. In this free Florida CLE-approved program, we will discuss issues ranging from the timing of and preparation for the mediation through the mediation conference itself. You can find out more about it and register here:
- What did you do before becoming a mediator?
After graduating from law school, I began working as an associate attorney for a boutique insurance defense firm that specialized in medical malpractice defense. I remained with that firm for approximately 20 years, climbing the ladder from associate to partner to shareholder. I gained most of my trial experience during this period of time, as I had the opportunity to try many different types of cases, as first chair, ranging from attorney malpractice and personal injury to employment discrimination. Mediation was not mandatory at that time, so cases that did not settle went to trial. I then joined a national law firm, Hinshaw & Culbertson, as a partner, specializing in defending employers sued for all types of alleged employment violations. By this time, court-ordered mediation was the norm. As a result, I observed firsthand the extraordinary benefit of mediation in achieving settlement in lawsuits that never would have settled on their own.
- What are the traits of the greatest lawyers you have known?
No matter what area of law a great lawyer specializes in, the great lawyers I have seen over the years have the following traits: (1) recognition that preparation is essential to success as a lawyer; (2) an innate ability to perceive the key issues in a legal matter from the start; (3) a willingness to really listen to their clients, opponents and the court; (4) using creativity to find solutions to issues that their clients face; and (5) perseverance in continuing to tackle problems despite setbacks along the way.
- What is your favorite part of being a mediator?
I enjoy the process of meeting the parties and their counsel, and sitting down with each side to find out what it is that they are really looking for in order to resolve their dispute. Often, the parties need the opportunity to voice their feelings and concerns and mediators are in the best position to enable that to occur.
- What do you wish people did more often in mediation?
I would like to see a greater exchange of information between the parties before arriving at mediation. Too often, key pieces of evidence, which would have assisted in the resolution of the lawsuit, are not shared by the parties before mediation. This can lead to an impasse or a continuation of the mediation.
- What is something about you that not too many people are aware of?
I was very shy until I graduated from law school. People who met me after that find that very hard to believe.
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