Mediation Blog

  • Patrick Russell

Next week I am going on the road with my non-profit, the Making History Project, on an American Heartland Tour to conduct Veteran oral history interviews. This trip will last more than a month as I drive approximately 5,124 miles through 15 States and the small towns that make America great.


So instead of talking about mediation or negotiation this week, I thought I would highlight this trip and the importance of volunteering and helping others.


Volunteering and Helping Others


Every day we are making history, quite literally. What you chose to do and how you spend your time has a ripple effect that impacts future events and people. Karma says you are exactly where you are supposed to be based on what you have done. So the question is, are you using your time wisely?


I think you would agree with me that we are more than just lawyers. We can be spouses, parents, and responsible citizens. But what else can we be in those moments in between? It is in these moments that we become fuller, derive a purpose, can help others, and live a meaningful life.


Making History Project


I started the Making History Project back in 2015. The Making History Project is a non-profit whose purpose is to preserve the memories and stories of combat veterans through video oral history interviews. The oral history interviews are being archived with the US Library of Congress through its Veterans History Project as well as with the University of Florida Samuel Proctor Oral History Program.


My interest in preserving Veterans' stories arose from my interest in history, World War II (my grandfather was a WWII veteran), and my trip to Normandy, France. While in Normandy during a D-Day anniversary, I was able to sit down and speak with numerous World War II veterans. What impacted me the most was how eager these World War II veterans were to tell me their stories but also how raw the emotions were after all that time.


Given the raw emotion I saw, it appeared evident to me that Veterans often suffer trauma from their combat experiences that can be a hidden and invisible injury. To that end, one purpose of my oral history interviews is to explore combat trauma and PTSD, and its similarities or differences across the generations from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and on to our current conflicts.


Leaving a Legacy


There are numerous outcomes for the oral history interviews that I conduct. First, many Veterans want to share their story and by doing so, they often express a sense of relief and satisfaction when they are done. Secondly, family members receive copies of the video oral history interview and thereby have a preserved memory of a loved one. Many times, a family member has told me that they learned a new story for the very first time when they heard the interview. Third, the oral history interviews capture a personal view of history for future generations when they are preserved in digital archives like the US Library of Congress. Finally, my comparison and study of combat trauma across the generations will hopefully increase awareness and the appreciation for the sacrifices that all of our Veterans make on our behalf.


The Takeaway


To have a fuller life, to have impact and meaning, find a way to help others through a project that you are interested in. You will be surprised how rewarding this can be and also how it will often compliment your professional life. When you do something that you enjoy and that has a purpose, it is often not work at all.


If you want to learn more about the Making History Project, go ahead and check out this article from the Florida Bar News.


Stay well,

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation


#mediation #adr #disputeresolution #mediationtips

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  • Patrick Russell

Defining your purpose, whether at life, work, a task, or at play, goes a long way to achieving a sense of success and satisfaction. Those without a sense of purpose are generally adrift, often dissatisfied and unhappy.


So what does purpose have to do with mediation and negotiation? Everything!


Where you can define purpose in all facets of your life, you can achieve better outcomes on all fronts. With a lack of purpose or direction in life, your dissatisfaction will spill over into work. Likewise, without purpose at work or in the tasks you undertake, the likelihood of success will diminish.


There is an overlap in purpose that impacts all that you do. When you can unify your purpose in both life and work, you will have the best chance to succeed. This is what I mean by the confluence of purpose.


Universal Purpose


For those that cannot figure out their purpose, one great starting place is to help others. If you can do it, paying it forward is an excellent purpose in itself. There are plenty of causes to get behind and no limit to those who need help, including homelessness, world hunger, the environment, education, civil rights, or simply coaching kids in sports.


The point is not to suggest you should make your purpose to achieve world peace. Instead, the point is to define purpose as a goal to help. How you do that is entirely up to you. You will have a better chance of achieving your goals when you define purpose as to help. In other words, Purpose = Help.


Purpose is the means to a goal, not the goal itself. In this way, you have control over your purpose, as all that is needed is your effort. Conversely, when you define purpose as making money or winning a trial, you do not necessarily control those outcomes.


Unifying Your Purpose


I would suggest that when you make it your goal to define purpose as help in all that you do, you will achieve a higher level of satisfaction and influence in your life. After nearly three decades as a lawyer, I decided that my purpose was to help others solve their legal disputes rather than be a participant in fighting out those disputes. I find greater satisfaction in helping people resolve their legal disputes than I do by winning a long and difficult trial.


Everything that I do is now directed towards that single unifying purpose of helping others to resolve disputes. I help lawyers with tips and strategies like this article, to be better at mediation and negotiation. Likewise, I help lawyers with tips and strategies regarding lawyer wellness as that leads to greater happiness, satisfaction, and more effective lawyering. In my work with the ADR Section of The Florida Bar, I seek to help my fellow mediators apply mindfulness to the mediation process, which leads to more ethical and better outcomes at mediation. My purpose in all three phases is to help, and the goal is to have a better mediation process, a more meaningful mediation.


Application of Purpose to Mediation and Negotiation


Altering your perspective at mediation or in a negotiation to help both parties resolve a problem will open many possibilities. You will lose the fixation on only focusing on your interests. Making a good deal just for you does not make the other party more likely to agree.


As litigators, we tend to concentrate on our interests and needs, but it takes two to make a deal. Showing a general interest, curiosity, and desire to help the other side will not only build rapport but open up creative opportunities to find a collaborative solution. That is the art of the deal.


The Takeaway


In the end, it really is pretty simple. Start to define your purpose as a genuine desire to help. Executing your purpose and controlling your effort to maximize helping others will lead to satisfaction and happiness. A happier lawyer will achieve better influence and outcomes. Better outcomes will lead to a happier client as a result. This is a case where the purpose of help as a means certainly justifies the ends.


If you are interested in learning more about mediation and negotiation strategies, please be sure to check out this site's Resources page.


Stay well,

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation


#mediation #adr #disputeresolution #mediationtips

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There is an ingrained misconception that mediation is simply about splitting the difference between competing offers. To make that point, I recently attended a conference, and one speaker stated that her job as an umpire was much different than that of a mediator. To support that claim, the speaker indicated that mediators split the difference during mediation, while her job was to evaluate and value claims. To say that I was a bit disappointed by that comparison would be an understatement.


Past Mediation Practices


There is some truth to the fact that many mediators have in the past and continue to split the difference at mediation. Most lawyers have had this experience where the mediator ends up doing shuttle diplomacy.


Shuttle diplomacy is the practice of certain mediators that go back and forth between the two parties with a legal pad in hand carrying offers and counteroffers. The primary task at hand ends up being the exchange of numbers until each side meets somewhere in the middle.


The practice of shuttle diplomacy usually starts with very high demands and very low offers with tiny increments in between. After a long mind-numbing process, the final resort will be the mediator's use of a bracket to bring the parties closer to settlement or realize they need to go home. While this may be one form of practiced mediation, it is not the only way to mediate.


Mediation 2.o


Mediation appropriately done is so much more than just exchanging numbers and splitting the difference. Splitting the difference at mediation for all cases implies that each party shares equal responsibility, liability, and fault, which is not the case. Stated another way, if mediation was just about splitting the difference, there would be no need for mediators as the parties or an accountant could perform that function.


True mediation in its purest form is the resolution of a conflict. To resolve a conflict, there has to be an understanding of the nature of the conflict and the underlying issues. Understanding conflict and its disputed issues requires gathering and exchanging of information so informed and rational decisions can be made. This means there has to be good communication, honesty, and a non-judgmental assessment of options during mediation. This is more than just numbers.


A mediator determined and interested in resolving a conflict will utilize more skills than just exchanging numbers. Mediation 2.0 will have a mediator first setting the tone for the mediation to be conducive to achieving the objectives for the honest sharing of information.


To achieve the critical need for the sharing of information, the mediator will need to utilize non-judgmental communication methods to encourage the parties to do the same. Many parties just need to be heard before their disputes can be resolved. Proper techniques for listening, speaking, body-language and the use of empathy are all tools in the Mediation 2.0 toolbox. Finally, a mediator must have an open mind to engage in high-end problem solving to move the parties towards a collaborative process for solving their dispute.


Expect More From Your Mediator


If you are only interested in numbers, then perhaps all you need is a number cruncher to split the difference. That, of course, would imply that both sides agree on the numbers and are equally responsible for the conflict. I would suggest that very few mediations are only about numbers or should split the difference.


Likewise, if you are going to mediation to check off a box so you can go to trial, well, then, in that case, any mediator will undoubtedly do. However, if you have a true human conflict and dispute, as most cases are, you then need a mediator that is equipped to do more than just split the difference.


The Takeaway


While many mediators continue only to split the difference does not mean that is what mediation is about. There is so much more to mediation than splitting the difference. Educate yourself on the differences between mediators and then determine whether you need shuttle diplomacy or Mediation 2.0.


If you are interested in learning more about mediation and negotiation strategies, please be sure to check out this site's Resources page.


Stay well,

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation


#mediation #adr #disputeresolution #mediationtips

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