Artists, Entertainers and Mediation: Where the paths meet

Mediator and Arbitrator, JAMS Mediation, Arbitration & ADR Services

Peter H. Woodin, Esq.

I’m a lawyer and have been a full-time mediator for more than 20 years. Before I went to law school, I spent 10 years working as a professional dancer, seven as a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  I didn’t study dance until college, and was very surprised when Mr. Ailey took me into his company just a few years later. Ailey was a mostly black company and I had never studied jazz or other movement styles that were the basis of the Ailey repertory.  Over my years with Ailey, I danced on stages all over the world.  It was a thrilling life, interpreting the roles I was given – including a solo which Mr. Ailey choreographed for me during my last year with the company – and creating that magical connection with the audience night after night.  It was also a hard life, physically and mentally demanding, always having to be “on” as a performer, and for months on end, every few days traveling onward to the next city, the next venue, the next time zone.

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Mediation is About Cutting a Business Deal

Zela "Zee" G. Claiborne, Esq.

Zela “Zee” G. Claiborne, Esq.

Mediation is popular with business people and their counsel because it is a low risk process with a remarkably high success rate. It is far less expensive than trial since it usually takes only a day or two and avoids costly discovery and employee downtime. Even more importantly, mediation allows participants to avoid the risk of going to trial and sometimes offers a chance to preserve business relationships.  Participants appreciate the fact that the process is confidential so that their business problems and intellectual property are shielded and that parties maintain some control of the outcome rather than perhaps live with an adverse judgment.

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Pregnancy Discrimination Claims Grow

Maria Walsh, Esq.

Maria Walsh, Esq.

With expanded participation of women in the workforce, there is a need to adapt the workplace to pregnant and breast-feeding workers. Enacted in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act banned employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Most employers are aware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines “pregnancy discrimination” as “treating a woman unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.”  Employers can’t discriminate on the basis of pregnancy by refusing to hire, train, promote or provide equal pay, insurance or other benefits because of an employee’s pregnancy.  Nor can an employer discriminate against a pregnant worker or applicant because of customer, co-worker or client prejudice. Continue reading

Selecting a Neutral at Case Inception

Louis Marlin, JAMS mediator and arbitrator

Louis Marlin, JAMS mediator and arbitrator

Every attorney who works as a litigator knows that litigation is a stressful and often frustrating exercise. Experienced litigators strive to provide the best representation for their clients while attempting to find ways to work cooperatively and cordially with opposing counsel. However, despite the efforts of well-meaning attorneys, it is the rare case where time-consuming disagreements do not interfere with the process.

Simply stated, I suggest that the parties select a professional “neutral” at the case inception to be available to resolve issues that present roadblocks to the cooperative and efficient progression of litigation. This approach addresses what I would call low-grade to moderate litigation-related disagreements, which I believe would save time and money—and lower litigation stress—for attorneys and their clients.

An early-selected neutral, with the agreement of both sides, could easily resolve issues such as (1) the order of taking depositions, (2) disputes over deposition locations, and (3) minor to moderate discovery disputes without the necessity of bringing motions and briefing issues that are easily handled in a telephonic conference, etc. By selecting a neutral at the commencement of the litigation, the neutral will become familiar with the basic legal issues and facts, thus enabling him or her to provide swift, efficient and cost-effective assistance to the attorneys.

Using this method, the parties can either agree that the neutral will only act as a “facilitator,” who attempts to get the parties to resolve their dispute by suggesting solutions to both sides. Or, if they wish, the parties can designate the neutral as the “decision-maker” for issues that they mutually agree should be presented to their neutral. The underlying concept is to create a method by which the parties can swiftly and cooperatively resolve the issues that normally arise in litigation.

By agreeing to this method, neither side makes any concessions. The selection of a neutral for this process does not represent a commitment to attempt to resolve the case at a later date. It simply represents an acknowledgement that both sides share equally in benefiting from finding the smoothest path to moving the case forward – whether to trial or settlement.