Cara (not her real name) “knew” her Portland lawyer, “Paul,” had malpracticed because another lawyer had confirmed her suspicion that Paul screwed up. Cara called me to see if I would sue her lawyer and / or take over her personal injury case.
I listened to her and probed her interests. I knew if she kept calling, some attorney would take her case to earn $8,333 on the personal injury case and maybe some more if what Cara believed about Paul’s office’s case handling were true.
I offered to mediate for free. The target lawyer agreed.
In all mediation cases, I speak with both parties before the session. I talked with Cara for another 40 minutes on top of the 30 minutes from the first call. She needed the time to process her beliefs, fears and feelings and to define her true interests.
When I asked the lawyer what he wanted to accomplish from the session, he said, “I don’t know.” Our pre-session conversation lasted about 9 minutes. Later, when we met just before Cara arrived, I asked him if he now had a goal for the meeting, and he disclosed it to me.
We all met around a table. The tension, if not anger, from Cara and her husband was obvious in their eyes, stiff jaws, raised shoulders and crossed arms. Cara articulated her concerns. (My 70 minutes with her helped!) Her husband was invited to add his concerns. Paul had a chance to communicate directly with Cara and offered a path forward with respect to resolving her claims and how better to work together.
About ½ hour after the session started, we all shook hands.
Our adversary system trains lawyers to consider legal rights and actions first. Most attorneys are less well trained to achieve results without asserting claims. Too often, attorneys focus on the dollar potential of the claim and not on other interests of their clients or potential clients.
I’m pleased I was able to help Cara and Paul identify their true interests and consider the best way to balance and accomplish their interests.
Jeff Merrick, Mediator