As a former litigator - I began my career in the litigation department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison - I know first hand the system’s inefficiencies, the utter waste of resources, the inevitable exacerbation of conflict, and the emotional and economic toll on the litigants.
When the litigants are people who at least once loved each other, and who may have children together, and now find themselves pitted against one another as adversaries, the result is invariably appalling and tragic.
When I taught full time at Brooklyn Law School, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with teaching my students how to “make an argument,” or, as they say in politics, “spin” the facts. I also became restless in academia, wanting to return to the practice of law, although I was clear that I did not wish to return to litigation. In 1994, I discovered mediation, which I saw as a challenging and intriguing blend of law and psychology (had I not become a lawyer, I would have become a clinical psychologist) far more like counseling than litigation, and far more suited to that part of my personality I wished to encourage.
Six years after I began mediating, I co-founded and became a charter member of the board of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals. It has been clear to me for some time that a significant number of people who are drawn to mediation are not great candidates for a process which requires that they do the “heavy lifting” of negotiation. These people need a “conflict ally,” an advocate who can speak for them and with them without being adversarial or engaging in strategic posturing.
People often say to me, “I don’t know how you do it.” I work with people who are going through a uniquely painful and vulnerable time in their life. As challenging and at times as frustrating as this work can be, it is gratifying to know that I am helping shield my clients from the ravages of the adversary system, while offering them a better way to a new chapter in their life.