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“Fairly Legal” Is Fairly Mundane

by Susan Yates
January 2011

From the Just Court ADR blog

Susan Yates
I have a pretty high tolerance for mundane television. But, with months of buzz in the ADR community around Fairly Legal, a new show about a California mediator, I was not expecting mundane TV. Prior to last night’s pilot episode, the talk in ADR circles was about how television would treat mediation. Now we have seen it and I must say my main reaction was that this was standard uninspired and uninspiring TV. Even I had to make myself keep watching this show just to see how they dealt with mediation.

The mediation setting may be new, but the characters are the same old TV characters. The mediator is a spunky-sexy woman running around the city in Charles Louboutin stilettos. She has a complicated relationship with her ex, a bad relationship with her step-mother, and a cutesy relationship with her assistant.

As for how mediation is portrayed, they got some of it right (someone like the judge might very well equate mediation and all of ADR) and some of it wrong (who would leave the parties alone in a conference room waiting for a late mediator?). Some of it was just plain odd (what mediator goes to a prosecutor – repeatedly – to get charges dropped to help settle a civil mediation?). I don’t mind that we didn’t hear about confidentiality or neutrality; I didn’t really expect that. But I was hoping for at least an entertaining show. Alas. Maybe the next mediation show actually will be engaging.


Susan Yates has been Executive Director of Resolution Systems Institute (RSI) since 1997. In this role, she is responsible for implementing the organizational mission of improving the effectiveness of court-related alternative dispute resolution methods and for overall management of a national on-line Court ADR Resource Center, technical assistance to courts that are working to establish or improve their ADR programs, and monitoring and evaluation of court ADR programs.

As Executive Director, Ms. Yates assists state and federal courts throughout Illinois with their development of sound ADR programs. She uses her expertise and years of experience to help them navigate the complexities of program design, such as how to structure referral systems, how to deal with issues including confidentiality and neutrality, and how to ensure quality.


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