Our daughter became engaged to be married last night. Although the groom to be has been a steady boyfriend for over two years and we were all pretty certain he was “the one”, the symbolic commitment that accompanied the diamond ring on her finger was/is HUGE! It occurred to me that when I mediate cases to a settlement, the signing ritual, the handshake, the acceptance of the “proposal” is more than a mere gesture. It also symbolizes a commitment to conform with the legal constraints that go beyond the casual promise or mutual assumptions. Until our daughter’s boyfriend put a ring on her finger last night, his words of commitment could have been interpreted as temporal, happy for the moment, maybe even non-committal. Now, his intent is clear, he’s invested in the process, and would have a much harder time reneging on his promise to marry next year than he would without the ring, ritual and public announcement. Next time you’re tempted to leave a mediation based upon a handshake, think again. The symbols of commitment to a future agreement can mean a great deal in love and law!
This article will appear in The St. Louis Lawyer. The cover of the Tuesday, September 11, 2001 New York Times features a photo of stylish women at the New York...By Paula Young