Sid Lezak

Sid Lezak

Sid Lezak was a long-serving U.S. Attorney for Oregon who had for the past 20 years dedicated his career to furthering creative and constructive dispute resolution, particularly mediation. Sid was a leading mediator in the Pacific Northwest and was widely regarded as the father of mediation in Oregon. Sid was the first Chair of the Oregon Dispute Resolution Commission and was an active fellow in the International Academy of Mediators.

Sid was of counsel to the law firm Newcomb, Sabin, Schwartz & Landsverk since 1982. From 1961 to 1982, he served as United States Attorney for Oregon. He was a partner in the firm of Bailey, Lezak, Swink and Gates specializing in labor law and trials prior to his nomination as U.S. Attorney by President Kennedy.  

Most of his professional activities since 1982 involved mediation and facilitation of disputes in all fields except  domestic  relations.   He lectured extensively and taught courses in dispute resolution at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark Collegeand Willamette University Law School. He has received numerous awards for his work in encouraging mediation. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council, President of the Oregon chapter, and chaired various committees of the Federal Bar Association and Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution.

In 1987 he was appointed by Governor Neil Goldschmidt to chair the Oregon Dispute Resolution Advisory Council which successfully prepared and guided its program through the Legislature. He served on the Oregon Dispute Resolution Commission established by the Legislature.

He was the first chair of Dispute Resolution Committees of the Oregon State Bar and the Oregon Federal Bar Association. He was on panels of the American Arbitration Association and the Arbitration Service of Portland and now mediates primarily through U.S. Arbitration and Mediation in Portland.

He was the Co-Editor of the Oregon State Bar Publication on Arbitration and Mediation and published articles in that field and on the subject of Prosecutive Discretion.

From 1942 until 1945, he served in the Army Air Corps and after combat, in the Air Transport Command. He became a 1st Lieutenant as a navigator on B-17s in the 8th Air Force and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 3 clusters for that service.

A partial list of his community service includes: President of the City Club of Portland, Trustee of the Foundation for Public Broadcasting and Commissioner on the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission. He served on the boards of Nature Conservancy, Planned Parenthood and Actors Production Company. He was chair of the Policy Group of the Oregon Prison Overcrowding Project and headed the Special Review Commission to investigate Portland's Police Chief.

In 1949, he married Muriel Deutsch Lezak, Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Neurosurgery at Oregon Health Sciences University. They have three children and seven grandchildren.


Articles and Video:

Humor, Rapport, and Experience (05/10/20)
Sid Lezak describes how he uses humor to lighten the mood of parties coming in and help them focus on what is in their best interests. He also talks about his vast experience and how his responses can be somewhat automatic.

Early Views of Field (03/25/20)
Sid Lezak talks about how he viewed the field when he first started out. It was like a 'religion' for him and any opposition or criticism made him even more dedicated to the practice and advocacy of mediation.

The Perfect Mediator (09/01/19)
Sid Lezak talks about how the 'perfect mediator' does not have a fixed number of certain attributes or a certain style. Rather, it is someone who is flexible, who can adjust their problem-solving style to the challenges that are presented.

Interview with Sid Lezak (07/20/19)
This is the complete interview by Robert Benjamin with former US Attorney and mediator Sid Lezak shortly before his death as part of's 'Views from the Eye of the Storm' Video Series.

Influential Childhood Experiences (06/20/19)
Sid Lezak relates some of his early childhood experiences in Chicago that he believes may have lended to his interest in accommodating others, negotiating, and 'getting along'.

Sid Lezak: Answering "What Can You Do for Us?" - Video (09/08/09)
Sid Lezak talks about how he answers the question, 'what is it you do that we should pay you X amount of dollars?'. He answers that he is an agent of reality (or their perceptions of reality) and by the end, the parties will have an opportunity to evaluate whether the offer that's made is in their best interest rather than continuing to struggle.

Sid Lezak: Challenges for Novices - Video (09/08/09)
Sid Lezak discusses the concerns he has had regarding the field. These include overly extravagant claims made about what the field brings to clientele, over-promising those who are coming into the field, and how difficult it seems for people to 'break into' the field.

Sid Lezak: Start in Mediation was Unconscious - Video (07/08/09)
Sid Lezak describes how he started practicing mediation without being conscious of it. As a US Attorney, he acted as a 'middle man' between agencies and/or his assistants and the courts and/or opposing attorneys.


The Mediators: Views from the Eye of the Storm Vol. I
Views from the Eye of the Storm

Featuring 31 of the most experienced mediators in the world.

This two-hour DVD is a "highlight" film of compelling commentary from pioneers and leaders in the field of mediation.

(2006) ISBN # 1-933857-04-8

This video is also available by online streaming here

DVDs are available for shipment to the United States and Canada. International purchasers are asked to order the online streaming version of this resource at

click here for a larger image
Complete Interview with Sid Lezak
Complete hour-long interview of Sid Lezak by Robert Benjamin.