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Already subscribed No subscription today Featured Blogger Interview: Phyllis Pollack at PGP Mediation

by Phyllis Pollack
May 2009 Phyllis  Pollack
1. When and how did you get involved in dispute resolution ?

For many years, I was a “peacemaker” and did not realize it. I was admitted to practice law in California in 1980 and handled mostly litigation. My approach to litigation was not that of the typical litigator as I tried to get to the bottom of what was going on; to figure out what the “truth” or “real” story was. Sometimes, it was favorable to my client; sometimes it was not. While I was supposed to be an advocate for my client, I was also interested in figuring out what was really going on. I also tried to resolve things short of trial; to look for a compromise.

After many years of frustration with the litigation mode, someone suggested to me, or I saw some articles on mediation ( I do not remember which). I finally decided to try it in 2000, taking the requisite 35 hour training course over Super Bowl weekend that year. It took me awhile to pursue it further as I did not sign up to be on the Los Angeles Superior Court panel until August 2000. I did not get really serious about being a full time neutral until 2005.

So, I got involved out of a frustration with litigation, finding that it was the most expensive and least efficient way to resolve matters and out of my desire to resolve matters without trial.

2. When and how did you start your blog?

In 2005, I hired a marketing firm to help grow my mediation business. As a lawyer, my clients were all referrals. As a result, I knew absolutely nothing about marketing. So, I figured if I was going to become a full time neutral, I was going to do it right. My marketing maven suggested that I start a blog as “everyone was doing it.” My first blog was August 31, 2006 entitled “The Berlin Wall: Something to Ponder”

( I decided to do it once a week, figuring that was all I could manage. And, I have been going strong ever since.

3. Do you consider your blog to have a particular voice ? Please describe.

I do not know about ‘voice” exactly. When I started the blog, I decided I would write about things I read about or otherwise came to my attention. I did not want it to be strictly my opinion but more academic in nature, passing on tidbits or useful information about negotiation, mediation, and ADR in general. I figured that no one would be interested in my opinion per se because it is just another opinion but, if I wrote about an interesting tidbit of information that might be useful in a negotiation session, then someone might actually read my blog.

So... if my blog has a “particular voice”, it would be tidbits of information that might be useful to someone, somewhere.

4. What has been most satisfying about blogging?

By posting a blog every week ( I have now published about 138 blogs), I have had to do a lot more reading than I did before. As a consequence, I have learned quite a lot about dispute resolution, mediation, negotiation, the psychology behind negotiation and related topics. I have read a lot of really good articles and books, thanks to my blogging habit.

5. What has been the most frustrating with blogging?

Actually, there are a couple of things. Because I want to publish every week, I am constantly on the look out for ideas and articles, Most of the time, this is not an issue, but every once in awhile, I am fresh out of ideas, and have to scramble a bit to come up with something. Second, I know a lot of people read my blog, but I do not always get feed back. So, at times, I wonder if any one out in cyberspace is reading this stuff? Is all this blogging really worth it?... Is anyone out there really listening?

6. How about, most embarrassing?

Luckily, or knock on wood, I have not had this experience yet.

7. Do you think Blogging has contributed to the growth of mediation? If so, how?

Definitely. Each of us learn by reading. The internet is nothing short of a cyber university. With all of the blogs out there, people are learning about everything, including what mediation is all about, how to approach mediation, preparation, and so forth. Cyberspace has made knowledge so accessible, it is hard to believe that we relied mostly on books for knowledge as short as 25 years ago. I know I have written several blogs on preparing for mediation, the idea or notion of fairness, California cases that have come down on issues of confidentiality and settlement agreements, the negotiation “dance”, the importance of showing up at a mediation, studies on how the odds favor settlement rather than trial, negotiation tactics, the psychology behind negotiating, the tax aspects of settlements and so forth. Looking back, if someone reads my blogs, she will get a pretty good education on what mediation is all about and how to be effective at mediation.

So, I know my blogs alone have contributed to expanding the knowledge base on mediation. And, I know my fellow bloggers have contributed quite a lot to this “database” as well.

8. How do you see mediation evolving?

That is an interesting question to which I do not have a ready answer. I definitely think that mediation will become more and more common place in our society because litigation is just too time consuming and too expensive and not always ‘just”. If you compare the ways in which mediation was used, 20 or even 10 years ago with the last 2-3 years and even today, you will see how it has vastly expanded into areas never contemplated. (If I may put in a plug, this is precisely the theme of the Southern California Mediation Association’s (“SCMA”) Annual Fall Conference to be held in November, 2009. Entitled “M3: The Next Generation”, it will explore all of the new and expanding uses of mediation. By way of full disclosure, as the incoming president of SCMA, I am the chair of this conference.)

At the same time, there is much discussion about licensing, credentialing and regulation of the mediation profession. I assume that this will occur at some point in the future but I have not thought through the details of how it will occur. (Another plug; the Southern California Mediation Association will address this topic at its Townhall on July 18, 2009 at Pepperdine University.)

9. What advice would you give a fellow mediator who is considering blogging?

To quote Nike, “ Just do it.” I am very happy that my marketing maven talked me into it, and I would feel lost without it. I have learned quite a lot by blogging which I hope is reflected in my skills as a neutral.

10. What are your favorite blogs, dispute resolution and beyond?

Sheepishly, I must admit that I do not read too many other blogs, as I am always working on my own. I do look at for articles and my fellow bloggers' blogs. I also look at the Los Angeles Daily Journal, especially its articles on mediation and dispute resolution. I am also on e mail lists for mediation and/or dispute resolution newsletters which I will look at. (How did I get on these lists, in the first place?) I am also a news junkie so when I am at the computer, I am always reading news stories about mediation and other topics (looking for blog ideas?)

I hope I have answered all of your questions. Thank you very much for inviting me to participate. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be a member of’s blogging community. Have a good day.


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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