Retraining Family Lawyers to Support Mediating Clients
Paula M. Lawhon, CFLS
Paula Lawhon, CFLS, has a full-time family law mediation and consulting practice with a team of three attorney-mediators and offices in San Francisco, San Rafael and Lafayette. The attorney-mediators at Lawhon Law & Mediation, P.C. help marrying and separating couples reach creative agreements on complex financial and parenting issues without litigation. All of our attorney-mediators serve as family law settlement masters in the San Francisco court and Ms. Lawhon, a Marin County resident, also serves as a panelist for the Marin County Superior Court’s Bench Bar Settlement Conferences.
Many families are choosing consensual dispute resolution methods such as mediation to complete their divorce and custody cases. But when searching for their separate attorneys to provide advice and support in their mediated cases, settlement-oriented clients often find attorneys whose training and decades of practice are rooted in an adversarial system. Many of these attorneys do not have adequate training or experience in non-adversarial dispute resolution or collaborative methods to truly support clients in their mediated cases, resulting in difficult and even unsuccessful negotiations. This article is intended to give practical guidance to those practitioners who would like to serve as consulting attorneys in mediation to help them think about ways in which they can have a more positive impact, become part of the solution their clients are seeking by choosing to mediate, and help support a successful outcome for all involved.
This quote from Abraham Lincoln is as relevant in 2016 as it was in 1850: "Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loserâin fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough."