I did not. I knew there were some conflict resolution skills that I could usefully learn, and that I had some directive judicial habits to unlearn. So, I took the 40-hour course through the Colorado Bar Association. There were some other ex-judicial types in the class, and some murmured conversation about whether judges should get a free pass. Why not just do it!
So after completing the class, I started mediating. Thank you to all of you who gave me a chance to work with your clients when I was rather greener than I am now. I Since the class I have spent well over 150 hours in mediation, either mediating solo, or with a co-mediator. A 40-hour course only goes so far. It is only practice that generates insights into:
- Maintaining the right balance between control and chaos;
- Bringing deeper needs to the surface quickly and safely;
- Responding uniquely to fear, anger, pain, shame, or grief;
- Approaching forgiveness and reconciliation;
- Responding positively to resistance and negativity;
- Finding and getting people to act upon shared values;
- Caucusing effectively, and expanding that pie!
Of course, nobody hires me to do any of this. It is my former judicial officer’s settlement conference skills that bring me to the table most of the time. However, successfully resolving a case really draws upon a mix of skills. Yes I can get into settlement conference mode, but that direction is not often the first place people need to go. For virtually every deal, the parties need to feel safe and helped. Even the lawyers can use some patient help on occasion. Parties may need to vent first and settle second. They may bring heavy emotional baggage that cannot be ignored. It is almost always the mediation skills plus the legal experience that make for a memorable outcome. It is not just one or the other.
I am happy to have been accepted as a professional member by the Mediation Association of Colorado. I value learning those professional skills just as much as keeping current with the law and the courts. I promise to bring both skill sets to bear for my clients. I am enjoying doing this work, and I look forward to seeing more familiar faces from the courtroom sitting around the negotiation table.