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Mediate.com

Making Assumptions in Mediation

by Jan Frankel Schau
March 2014

Jan Frankel Schau's Mediation Blog

Jan Frankel Schau

This Saint Patrick’s Day I had a good reminder that a mediator should never make assumptions about matters such as culture, experience or sophistication of the parties before them. The case was brought by a Japanese man who had sued his former employer, an American company, for wrongful termination.

The Company’s representative, a jolly Irish gentleman, was respectful of the process and greeted the Plaintiff warmly at the outset of the hearing. At the end, I said to the Defendant that I thought it unfortunate, but that the genesis of the conflict appeared to be a breakdown in communications at the workplace, as so many employment matters are.

It was at that point that the Irish Defendant muttered something to me in perfect Japanese! It turns out he had lived in Japan in his youth and had a great respect and deference for the people there, whom he considered family. Had we not engaged in that banter, I would never have known that this individual had such a deep understanding of the Plaintiff’s culture. What was more, he had been a party himself to a published lawsuit many years ago, and knew the vagaries of litigation firsthand.

I was reminded of how important it is to enter every negotiation fresh and engage in basic conversation at the outset in an effort to ferret out the keys to helping the parties arrive at a mutually acceptable settlement to their disputes. How do you keep yourself from making assumptions about the parties?

Biography


Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the needs of their representatives with the risk and expenses of trial. Those who have used Ms. Schau’s services recognize excellence in her persistence, optimism, creativity and integrity.

Ms. Schau was the President of the Southern California Mediation Association in 2007 and is recognized as among the most outstanding mediators in Southern California in the mediation of civil disputes by her peers and clients. She also serves as a Trustee of the Board of Directors of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and has presided as Chair of it’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and Litigation Section. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Skills in Negotiation from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution of Pepperdine University as well as from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights at Loyola Law School.



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Website: www.schaumediation.com

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