Mediation works. I have been a mediator since 1982 when the Los Angeles Superior Court asked me to take a politically embarrassing case out of the courtroom and "resolve it" outside the glare of the media and the press. The court did not specify "mediation" in its request. Outside of the labor and industrial relations context of collective bargaining agreements, mediation was not yet a term applied to commercial civil litigation matters. In fact, although the court was asking me to resolve a lawsuit through mediation, I had no power to impose, direct or determine the outcome of the case. My only tools were a begrudging willingness on the part of the litigants to listen to me and try anything that would work. I had to engender the trust of the various fighting factions and, in doing that, help the warring sides see the alternative outcomes of litigation-the best and the worst case possibilities-and then assist them in creating and agreeing to a reasonable "I can live with it" solution.
It worked. The matter settled. The court and the parties were grateful, pleased, spared the expense of a costly, protracted court battle, and stunned by the relative painlessness of the eventual outcome. I began a career as a mediator.