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What Has The World Come To?

by Phyllis Pollack
December 2009

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

Phyllis  Pollack

      I am a member of the Louisiana State Bar. Like most states, the Louisiana Bar  requires that its active non-exempt members take so many hours of continuing education each year, including courses on “Professionalism”. As a result, I get e mails advertising courses from time to time. 

      Recently, I received the following e mail advertisement. It troubled me. It really made me stop, think and wonder what the legal world is coming to. Sadly, I am also a member of the California Bar which is the object of this article:   

      “More than 600 soon-to-be lawyers were taking the California State Bar exams in the Pasadena Convention Center when a 50-year-old test-taker suffered a heart attack. Only fellow candidates John Leslie and Eunice Morgan stopped to help the man. They administered CPR until paramedics arrived, then resumed taking the test. Citing policy, the test supervisor refused to allow the helpers any additional time to make up for the 40 minutes they spent helping the victim. Jerome Braun, the State Bar’s senior executive for admissions, backed the decision stating, “If these two want to be lawyers, they should learn a lesson about priorities.”

      “Against this kind of backdrop, it’s no wonder that, for some of us, the line between winning and waging war is blurred. Clever rebuttals can slip into verbal abuse, zealous advocacy becomes incivility, and the thrill of victory can turn into battle fatigue. In this course, Dr. Johnston takes a look at the role stress plays in incivility and how attorneys can channel the emotional energy of litigation into appropriate, constructive behavior.”

        This is a sad commentary on the state of  the legal world in California. The fact that it is being noted by a provider of training in Louisiana (CLE Compliance - DigiLearn) (approximately 2000 miles away via Interstate 10) is really troublesome. What Mr. Braun did is, obviously, well known throughout the country, and California’s reputation is clearly  tarnished as a result.

       This episode  epitomizes why I gave up the practice of law and became a full time mediator; I am into peace making, not battle fatigue. I am into resolving matters using  a “win-win” approach; not “I win and you lose” or zero sum game approach. There is no thrill in victory for me. The thrill for me is in helping people settle their disputes; when I succeed, I feel that I have done some good in the world that day.

      I share this story with you to show why mediation is so valuable in our society. By using mediation to resolve a dispute, a party avoids the verbal abuse, the over zealous advocacy  and the general incivility in civil litigation. Yes, civil litigation can be quite uncivil these days.

      As you ponder this story and its implications and ramifications, I would like to  leave you with a wish for a very Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year. Surely, 2010 will be a better year for all of us. 

      . . .Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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