Mediator: My Story and I'm Sticking to It

Richard B. Lord, a shareholder with Upchurch Watson White & Max, is a fellow of the American College of Civil Trial Mediators and co-Chair of the ABA Dispute Resolution Section's Mediation Commitee . To schedule a mediation with Richard, please visit our online scheduling page or call his case manager, Cathy McCleary, at 800-863-1462.

Shareholder Richard Lord Richard Lord

This year’s ABA Mediation Week will be here soon, Oct. 12 through 18. Lawyers, dispute resolution professionals, companies, academic institutions, communities, families and organizations of all shapes and sizes will celebrate mediation during that week. The goal each year is to promote understanding and use of mediation to manage and resolve disputes wherever they arise. Our theme this year is “Stories Mediators Tell – From Rookie to Veteran, Exploring the Spectrum of Mediation." I consider myself both blessed and lucky to be a mediator, and this is my story, providing a general glimpse of how I view my profession.

I came of age as a lawyer after court-ordered mediation had been shepherded through its introduction and widespread adoption in Florida. I am proud to say that the visionaries and persistent catalysts of its adoption include several of my colleagues at Upchurch Watson White & Max. Our state’s law schools had yet to offer dispute resolution classes, so I learned by attending mediations in place of trying cases. It did not take me long to recognize my preference for the conference room over the courtroom.

My mediation journey began in 1990 as a trial lawyer serving as an advocate in the mediation process, usually relatively close to trial. It was clearly a way to save time, money and avoid risk. But it was still being accepted slowly at times. I remember once hearing a judge say that it was too early to mediate as discovery had not yet been completed. My, how times have changed. Soon, I was also serving as mediation settlement counsel, predominantly in pre-suit matters. That experience reinforced my belief that the value, to individuals and organizations alike, of pre-suit or early mediation cannot be overstated.

Traveling the country also gave me a window into mediation styles, customs and practices in much of the continental United States. That experience made plain that we can all learn from how others do it, and, when participating in mediation in a place other than where you are accustomed, it is important to understand local practices and preferences.

Today, after seventeen years of mediation practice, I continue to see legal and business communities enthusiastic about mediation. I believe a mediated settlement is always preferable to an adjudicated outcome, as it is where parties truly can exercise control, be flexible, and find the common ground. And beyond the litigated case, I have seen it used to plan for and implement succession within the family business. Mediation existed in different cultures and structures well before our institution of court-ordered mediation in Florida. Going forward, I believe mediation’s core principles of self-determination, facilitated communication, collaboration, and confidentiality make it a useful framework for group engagement beyond where it is commonly utilized today.

That’s my story. And, by the way, if you haven’t read the book “Stories Mediators Tell," published by the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, and edited by Eric R. Galton and Lela P. Love, I recommend it.

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