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Dispute Settlement Counsel by Michael Zeytoonian.
I was reading a Scriptural passage this week as part of my daily meditation. The passage was about two mediators – Moses and Jesus (Galatians 3:13-22). It’s a bit risky to write about mediation and meditation in the same post as they often get confused. But this is where my writing voice takes me today.
Moses and Jesus served as mediators between man and God, Moses as the messenger in the Laws of the Old Testament, Jesus as the fulfillment of the law in the New Testament. Moses brought the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel at a time when their conduct warranted a need for the laws to be codified on tablets. They viewed Moses’ as a deliverer sent by an angel, who had delivered them to freedom and then, through the laws, to God. Jesus took the laws to the next level, stressing the spirit of the law over the letter of the law, and finding himself at odds with the dogmatic legalists of his time, the Pharisees. Moses’ task as deliverer of the commandments was to bring the law of God to his people; Jesus’ mission was to bring God’s people back into union with Him, not by stressing the codified laws of either the Romans or the Hebrews, but by urging people to be transformed by the renewal of their minds.
There is an interesting piece in the midst of this passage, one often overlooked by Bible commentaries, but one that can’t be missed by those who work as mediators:
“”The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator (Moses). A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.”
Hmmm. Wrap your mind around that for a while. Where is the place where the giver of the law and the recipient of the law are joined? The place of synergy where both sides become one solution?
Two mediators, yes, but each in a different kind of mediation. One using the laws to bring about a meeting point between God and man; the other teaching man to internalize the law to the point where it is acknowledged as a signpost, but for the most part becomes moot. I have often focused on Jesus’ powerful proclamation of his purpose with respect to the laws – that he has come to fulfill the laws, not to destroy them. How do we – lawyers, mediators and clients – fulfill the laws?
Neither Jesus nor Moses ever ignored the laws; nor did they ever disrespect them. Moses used them more as a hammer to push his people toward obeying the law. His was getting to yes, but in much the same way a shuttle diplomacy mediator pushes parties to get to some meeting point, after so much has already been spent and lost. Ever the antithesis of the dogmatic legalist, Jesus’ approach was to change the way people viewed the law by first changing the way people viewed themselves. In essence, if you are living your life a certain way, and treating others in a certain way, the standard that you are operating at is higher than the legal requirement. It’s reflected in Jesus’ advice to a person, urging him not only to walk a mile for another person, but to go a second mile. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus set the standard for dispute resolution: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary…Do it while you are with him in the way to court, or he may hand you over to the judge…I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:25-26)
As I have internalized the synthesis of my spirituality and my chosen legal profession in the field of non-adversarial dispute resolution, I have come to understand both the difference of approaches and the need to internalize the processes of dispute resolution. In that, there are clear analogies between the approaches of Jesus and Moses and God working through them, and the various approaches we use today to resolving disputes, from litigation to collaborative law. There is this “place of one” in every dispute and it offers the most complete resolution. It is different for each team of rivals and each situation. In order to fulfill the law, the mediator’s higher purpose is to transform the minds of the two sides, so that they can go beyond just settling, to find, or perhaps rediscover, their “place of one”.
Michael A. Zeytoonian is the Founding Member and Director of Dispute Resolution Counsel, LLC and is a lawyer, mediator and ombudsman. He is formerly a partner and now Of Counsel at Hutchings, Barsamian, Mandelcorn & Zeytoonian, LLP, in Wellesley Hills, MA. He specializes in employment law, business law, special education law, mediation, collaborative law and administrative law. He is admitted to practice in the state and federal district courts of Massachusetts and New York (Southern District) and the state of Connecticut. He has served as a mediator on the MWI panel in the district courts and on the BBA panel in the Boston Municipal Court.
He is a member and Massachusetts Bar Association and is chair of the MBA’s ADR committee and a member of the labor/employment section. He is a Past President (2006-2007) and member of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the New England Association for Conflict Resolution. He writes frequently on collaborative law and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and has trained lawyers and presented in collaborative law and ADR around the U.S., Canada and Ireland. He has lectured at Northeastern University School of Law, Suffolk University School of Law, New England Law Boston, UMASS School of Law and Roger Williams University School of Law.
He served as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, as a deputy overseeing litigation in the State Counsel Bureau in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties and working on consumer advocacy cases. Prior to his work at the Attorney General’s Office, he was an Assistant County Attorney in the Westchester County (NY) Law Department, in the litigation and family court bureaus. His litigation work at both the County Law Department and the Attorney General’s office included cases in employment; labor; state, county and local municipal matters; environmental law; construction, administrative and tort law, and the prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases. His undergraduate education was at Boston College and Iona College, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree is history and education. He earned his J. D. from Pace University School of Law with a Certificate in Environmental Law in 1990.
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