Thursday, December 20, 2007

Where did the year go??

This year has been crazy in a good way. Here are some highlights for the "Mediation & Law Office of Paula M. Lawhon":

1. I moved to a new office in my building early in the year to get two much-needed mediation/conference rooms in addition to my office, which also functions as a mediation room. This has made it so much easier to schedule mediations since I no longer have to sign up for the shared conference rooms in my building.

2. Early in the year, I also acknowledged my need for a full-time assistant and have been amazed at my own productivity since then.

3. Later in the year, I came to embrace my desire and ability to help people going through complex divorces and other family matters by keeping them out of court and in mediation where they can work through private financial and custody matters with less antagonism and no court involvement. This step meant fewer mediations in employment law, real estate, business, etc. in order to make room for the family law mediation referrals I received. As a former employment lawyer and civil litigation attorney, this was not what I expected. But my current practice as a family law attorney has also helped me to shift my focus into the family law arena. This has been a good shift for me.

4. Until this month, I have kept up with my weekly blog entries on mediation news and thoughts I've had about my own mediations and I also focused on writing a detailed article on settlement agreements for a legal magazine. I enjoy writing but I definitely don't enjoy the feeling I get when I haven't had the time to post a blog entry! Sometimes there's only so much of me to go around!

5. And, finally, I'd like to just say "Whoa!!!" to this end-of-year rush that's happening in what seems like all of my cases. Looks like I'm finishing up my Christmas shopping with everyone else who got bombarded with work obligations this month! I empathize with you!!

Happy Holidays to everyone! I wish everyone a peaceful new year!

Monday, December 03, 2007

More on Open Minds in Mediation

I wrote recently (here) about the necessity of all parties coming to mediation with open minds. Keeping an open mind and not foreclosing options allows the parties, their representatives and the mediator to explore creative ways of resolving the dispute to everyone's satisfaction.

We are reminded of how important an open mind is when we hear about a potential mediation being derailed when one or more parties closes off possible avenues of settlement before the mediation has even started. This is happening in Framingham, Massachusetts, in which a federal lawsuit brought against the town in Boston, charges numerous town officials and two private citizens with discrimination and a coordinated effort to rid the town of its disabled population.

The executive director of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (which apparently filed the lawsuit on behalf of the disabled plaintiffs) is quoted in the article as saying: "A successful mediation requires both sides to come to the table with no preconditions and with open minds ... This week's Town Meeting vote [that the town's legal team should not turn over local oversight or any money in a mediation of the case] was designed to limit the results which might be achieved through a mediated settlement."

And of course, he is correct. Even without knowing all the details of the case or the specific issues, it is clear that the town is putting the settlement options available to all parties into a box they alone have constructed. These are the "rules" the town is imposing and then claiming that they do want to mediate the case. But these kinds of rules have no place in mediation. Part of the mediation process is allowing for some free thinking and the generating of options that expand the potential settlement options, not limit them before the mediation has even started.

You can read more of the details or the full article from the MetroWest Daily News here.