Resolving Disputes While Preserving Dignity
The idea for this piece comes from a facebook post of a friend and colleague, Family Law Attorney and Mediator James P. Reape.
Yesterday, Jim Reape posted that one of the highest callings of an attorney is to resolve disputes while preserving dignity.
I could not agree more.
In my view, resolution by trial in a courtroom usually does not preserve dignity, at all, ever, for at least one side.
There, one side loses.
Losing at trial is mortifying. The litigant has believed that he or she is right, and is incredulous that the judge or jury has not agreed.
There is no closure. The anger and pain continues to rankle, often propelling the matter further along in the litigation path to the appellate court.
On the other hand, mediation gives the opportunity either for both sides to win – or otherwise to share the pain together, as it were – in such a way that neither side is mortified by the outcome.
On the most simplistic level, when both sides compromise or give in to the other, each has recognized the possibility that the other might be right and has honored the other by acknowledging that there are two sides to every story.
But there is more to preserving dignity than that.
Even when one side or the other is recognized to have the better case, when that side makes a concession, be it large or small, it allows the other side “to save face.”
The mediator and lawyers can add to the preservation of dignity too.
Listening and really hearing what the disputant says, without judgment and with an open heart, gives the distressed litigant a great deal of honor and respect.
Treating both sides with care, thoughtfulness, empathy, consideration and courtesy, goes a long way to preserving dignity as well.
Finally, maintaining the privacy of mediation gives dignity in the resolution of disputes. No one likes to be embarrassed in a courtroom that is open to the public, particularly but not only when business or personal reputations are at stake.
In a time like now, when judicial/courtroom resources are scarce due to budget constraints, lawyers and their clients should be clamoring for private mediation, a true place to preserve dignity in the resolution of disputes.
David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes, primarily, and other conflicts when called upon to assist. His website is at http://karpmediation.com . He apologizes for any ads affixed to this post by wordpress.com; they are not his.