Ona Russell is a mediator, as well as a novelist. She holds a Ph.D. in literature from the University of California at San Diego, and for the past several years, has given certified CLE courses to legal organizations on literature and the law. She is also a regular contributor to Orange County Lawyer Magazine. She took her mediator training at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego. Her Web site is www.onarussell.com.
Chances are, when you curl up with a good book, resolving disputes is not foremost on your mind. If you are a mediator, perhaps it should be. The author argues that knowledge of literature can help mediators hone their communication skills, understand their clients, and, most importantly, help their clients understand each other.
"Let me tell you a story....” has no doubt been uttered countless times throughout history in every conceivable language. As novelist A.S. Byatt put it, stories are “as much part of human nature as breath and the circulation of the blood.”1 Whether passed down through the ages or invented on the spot, stories teach, entertain, celebrate, reveal and illuminate. They can also unite people of diverse interests, and thus have much to contribute to the practice of mediation, which I will exemplify toward the end of this essay.