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This Too Will End What do winter and the Covid 19 pandemic have in common?  They both seem like they will last forever.  But we all know both will end, I promise.  Here in St. Louis we can walk outside, using social distancing, and as I take full advantage of this escape, I notice the flowers are blooming and the grass is greening up.  These photos are taken around my neighborhood within the last few days and I’m including them to cheer you up!
Here are a few Winter/Covid 19 suggestions I pass along:
--Think about taking time for yourself.  Read a book you have left sitting on your shelf.  I just finished “Hedy’s Folly” about Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr, who patented a communications system between torpedoes and submarines during WWII.  With her co-inventor, George Antheil, an accomplished movie music composer, they collaborated to protect communications from enemy jamming.  Today, this invention is integral to bluetooth, GPS devices and wireless phones.  Who knew??
--Get in the kitche…

COFFEE WITH A SIDE OF KINDNESS

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Starbucks holds a special place in my heart; I am a regular coffee drinker and by now my local store knows not only my name, but also my dog’s name.  The other day I was in line ready to order and overheard the customer in front of me laughing about her magic Starbucks card that showed a $0.18 balance but just keeps on working.  She used her magic card to pay and stepped off to the side to wait for her order.  Before I could mutter “Grande Cappuccino with Skim Milk,” my barista informed me their system was acting up and I could pay only with cash or the app.  Panic flowed through my body—I had forgotten my iPhone that morning, so no app, and very little cash on me.  The  previous customer must have noticed the rising alarm in my voice because she quickly interrupted by insisting that I use her Starbucks Card, referring to it as the “Community Card.”  I did and it worked perfectly.  I turned to the customer behind me and insisted she use the Community Starbucks Card too.  Elation reig…
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WHY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS AND MEDIATIONS FAIL
What is your New Year’s Resolution?  Last January I started this blog and resolved to post at least monthly.  I did it (well, except for December, which as a working Mom, is excusable—in fact, I declare that henceforth December is off the table for all deadlines.)
Most lawyers and mediators are super swamped during December.  Insurance companies, law firms and others want to close cases before the end of the year—be it for tax purposes, a push from accounting or maybe just to start the year off fresh.  The week before Christmas I had four mediations in five days.  Wow-that’s a lot!  Three of the four settled, so these are great results.  The cases that settled had parties who were open to compromise, knew the facts of their situation and were serious about settling.  But what can we learn from the dispute that did not settle?  Let’s dig deeper and pull out what went wrong.
In the case that did not settle, both sides were represented by ex…
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MED-ARB BASEBALL STYLE
As a follow up to my last post on Med-Arb, I want to describe a new type of Med-Arb gaining popularity:  Med-Arb Baseball Style.  (Okay, I made up that name but it aptly describes this process.)
In Major League Baseball (MLB) if the team and player cannot agree on a contract price, the case goes to a neutral arbitrator and each side presents the Arbitrator with a dollar amount they believe represents a fair, final price and their justification for the price.  (Seems strange to speak of a price for a person, even if he is an awesome baseball player!)  The Arbitrator chooses one of the numbers presented and has no discretion to choose or do anything else.  Both sides have an incentive to be reasonable and give their best number.

Because this is St. Louis and we love our baseball, (and hockey too) this process has spilled over into contract disputes, particularly in the construction arena when disputes arise between general contractors and subs.  The contract (pre…

MED-ARB

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Med-Arb!  The worst nickname ever … or maybe the best nickname ever because it quickly informs the reader of the basic concept.  Never fear, I have completed numerous med-arbs (one of the few mediators who actually has) and there are good reasons to use med-arb.

So, what is this strange creature?  Med-Arb uses the same Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) professional to act as both mediator, and if mediation is unsuccessful, to serve as an arbitrator.  Clients love this concept, especially its efficiency.  Time is money and med-arb takes advantage of saved time in educating only one ADR professional about the dispute.  I remember in a mediation, watching the client’s surprise when he learned that his option, if mediation failed, was to start all over again with a new person acting as an arbitrator.  He commented on this terrible waste of time and wanted to hire me on the spot to arbitrate the case.  (The mediation was successful so we never went down this path)  
The big difference …

WHY WE LIKE THINGS TO REMAIN THE SAME

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Have you visited Disney World lately?  I just returned from a family vacation to the Magic Kingdom and I had such a strong sense of pleasure wandering from one favorite attraction to the next.  Flying with Peter Pan, floating on the boats of “It’s a Small World” as the song becomes stuck in my mind and walking down Main Street peeking in the windows.  I was not alone; there were plenty of other adults, unaccompanied by any kids, meandering from ride to ride.
Why?  Why do we love Disney World?  For me, it is the sameness.  I visited Disney as a kid, returned with my kids and over these 40+ years it has remained almost the same.  (Although I am quite unhappy “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” was replaced by “Winnie the Pooh.”) The expectations of guests are met; Cinderella’s castle was lit; the ghosts joined my car in the Haunted Mansion and Main Street was clean and freshly painted.  I relaxed, knowing what was expected of me, and felt safe with the status quo.  Don’t we usually feel comfortable w…

MEANINGFUL MEDIATIONS WITH PRO SE PARTIES

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Can you mediate with pro se parties … meaningfully?
40% of State Court litigants are pro se.  (“Pro se” means individuals or corporations who do not hire an attorney to represent them in the dispute)  20% of federal court litigants are pro se.  Staggeringly high numbers, right?
I mediate cases with pro se parties and, while some of my colleagues will not, I will.  Pro se parties want and need to participate in mediation; it is part of the larger system of justice in our country so I accept mediations directly with the parties.  However, my first comment to the pro se parties is that they should consider hiring a lawyer and I give them referrals to the State and local bar associations.  Sometimes, the party cannot afford or find a lawyer willing to take the case and yes, this usually means the case is weak.  No surprise--good cases are snapped up by good lawyers.  Other pro se parties think they do not need legal representation.  (Most times they are wrong.)
My second comment is to ex…