Take a long, hard look at mediation

By Kim Kirn | Oct 6, 2007

Kim Kirn It seems to me that we like to fight.

Kim Kirn

It seems to me that we like to fight.

Once any real, or even imagined, wrong is committed against us, our natural and immediate reaction is to retaliate. For example, I don't like the opinion you just expressed so it's okay for me to punch you, or worse yet, to silence you by any means possible.

I write this after calling the police because a strange, young man after watching a portion of a League of Women Voters presentation of an anti-war documentary at the local library stormed out of the room slamming the door and giving many of the attendees the impression he did not like what he saw.

Maybe I overreacted by calling the police, but after the bloodbaths like those at VMI and Delaware State, I think my caution was warranted. I think this young man wanted to fight and oftentimes we provide him with too many reasons to fight and not enough reasons to find compromise and peace.

I have worked as a lawyer for 22 years and while I spent the beginning of those years exclusively as a fighter, I have come to believe that peace-making is a better use of my talents.

I saw lawyers who loved to fight in court; even winning or losing did not matter, continuing the fight was the goal. Filing the lawsuit or defending the lawsuit might have the right decision at the beginning of the conflict but often continuing the fight was not in the best interests of the parties.

I have seen angry litigants who wear down as the case slowly progresses. Those litigants become mad at their own lawyers, frustrated with the legal system and angry at themselves for ever becoming involved in a lawsuit.

I have seen litigants who, even after winning the battle in a full trial feel angry. If they are the plaintiff, the case took too long and they are paying their lawyer too much out of their settlement. If the winner is the defendant, they feel as though they should never have been dragged into litigation in the first place and, similar to the plaintiff's feelings, they had to pay their lawyer too much money for their vindication.

To become a peacemaker, I studied and trained to become a mediator. I believe in mediation because I have seen it work.

It can transform the bitterness into relief. I can turn angry litigants into satisfied clients.

I have seen mediation heal emotional wounds and allow a party to change course from a sense of fighting to the bitter end to accepting compromise. One of the most important aspects of mediation is the catharsis that a party feels during the mediation when he or she gets to tell their story (or really to have their lawyer tell the story).

Their version of the story is validated. They see the opponent hearing their story. The mediator, a neutral, third party, hears their story. Sometimes the person just needs to be heard and they feel that a small victory has been won.

When each party has been heard, especially during the mediation opening and first few caucuses, that sense of catharsis begins to do its job and compromise becomes more possible.

I love being a part of that healing and it is that step which keeps me mediating. At the end of the day, the client's best interests are more important than the fight.

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