Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services

ATLANTA OFFICE:
6 Concourse Pkwy., Suite 1950

Atlanta, GA 30328
(678) 320-9118

SAVANNAH OFFICE:
17 Park of Commerce Blvd.
Suite 301

Savannah, GA 31405
(912) 417-2879
All Fax: (404) 389-0831

March 31, 2017 No Comments

by Burke Johnson, Esq.

Litigation of disputes related to decedents’ estates is increasing.  The assets over which many baby boomers are now fighting, left by frugal depression era parents, can be significant. This older generation saved money and as a result, many estates are larger, and each child wants his or her “fair share.”  Family dynamics have also changed. Families are no longer as close as they once were. Siblings move from their homes of origin across the state or even across the country.  They do not stay in touch.  It is often easier to fight with a family member not seen in years than with one who lives in the same. Similarly, with the increase of divorce and second marriages, there is more willingness to fight with a deceased parent’s surviving second spouse or step-siblings.  Finally, for many people, an inheritance has become something that they expect.  They have been counting on it and will fight for it.

The idea of using “alternative dispute resolution” to settle estate disputes is not new.  Indeed, no less than the Father of our Country, George Washington, included a provision in his own will for resolution of any issues that might arise:

“But having endeavored to be plain, and explicit in all the Devises, even at the expence of prolixity, perhaps of tautology, I hope, and trust, that no disputes will arise concerning them; but if, contrary to expectation, the case should be otherwise, from the want of legal expression, or the usual technical terms, or because too much or too little has been said on any of the Devises to be consonant with law, My Will and direction expressly is, that all disputes (if unhappily any should arise) shall be decided by three impartial and intelligent men, known for their probity and good understanding; two to be chosen by the disputants, each having the choice of one, and the third by those two. Which three men thus chosen, shall, unfettered by Law, or legal constructions, declare their Sense of the Testator’s intention; and such decision is, to all intents and purposes to be as binding on the parties as if it had been given in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The use of mediation to resolve estate disputes is preferable to litigation for many reasons.

  1. Control
    Mediation allows participants to control the outcome.  Litigation puts it in hands of judge or jury.  No matter how experienced the attorney, none has the ability to predict exactly how a judge or jury will find in any given case.  Resolving issues at mediation provides the clients with total control over the outcome.
  2. Time and Expense
    Mediation can achieve results much more quickly than litigation.  As the saying goes, “time is money.”  The longer litigation lasts, the more expensive it becomes. Consider, for example, the “Gaines Cases” rooted in a bigamous marriage that occurred in eighteenth century New Orleans.  The estate litigation spanned approximately fifty years and generated multiple opinions from the United States Supreme Court.  More recently and closer to home, the death of a successful Georgia businessman in  2004 generated litigation that has spanned over seven years and resulted in three opinions from the Georgia Supreme Court.
  3. Privacy
    Except in certain limited cases, documents filed with Georgia’s courts are public record.  Similarly, Georgia’s courtrooms are open, and except in certain limited cases, all of the evidence presented in a trial or hearing is subject to becoming public knowledge.  In estate litigation cases, this can result in the “airing of dirty laundry” that a family might prefer to keep private. In contrast, mediation is a private process.  The parties can control the release of information and the mediation session is attended only by those involved and is not open to the public, provides the advantage of privacy.
  4. Confidentiality
    Similar to the privacy issue, nothing that is contained in public filings or revealed at a hearing is confidential.   Except in very limited circumstances, nothing that is said in the mediation session can be revealed outside of the mediation or used by or against either party at a later date in the event that the mediation does not result in a settlement.  This gives the parties the incentive to share openly.
  5. Preservation of Relationships
    Many estate litigation cases involve parties who are adverse to each other and who have no significant past relationship and no desire to continue in any future relationship.  However, many cases involve siblings or other family members who were fairly close to each other until the death of the family member giving rise to the estate dispute.  In these circumstances, typically, the longer the litigation goes on, and the more negative charges are hailed at each other, the relationship suffers.  Mediation can help avoid this and allow the parties to repair the relationship.


In conclusion, everyone who practices in the area of estate litigation should encourage their clients to use mediation as the preferred method of resolving their disputes.


Mediator Burke JohnsonBurke Johnson, Esq. is a mediator with Miles Mediation in Atlanta.  He has over 30 years of experience handling cases of all complexities and sizes, including  automobile, motorcycle and trucking wrecks; premises liability actions (including cases involving claims of negligent security); product liability claims; construction defect claims; commercial general liability claims; professional liability claims; insurance coverage matters; life, health and disability insurance claims; ERISA benefit claims; business and commercial disputes; elder care and adult guardianships; probate and estate litigation; and family law matters.  

To learn more about Burke or to schedule a mediation, please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

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March 21, 2017 No Comments

by John K. Miles, Jr., Esq.

Years ago when I practiced law, I worked for a client in the construction industry. The company required claims to be mediated – a fairly new concept at time. When one of their products turned out defective, I often found myself sitting around a table at mediation. Former Georgia Attorney General, Mike Bowers, was the mediator on a number of these cases. After we got to know each other, at one point he suggested that I would be a good mediator. Mike meant it as a compliment but I was offended. I was a litigator. Mediation was for those who couldn’t make it in the courtroom.

I did have a great deal of respect for Mike, so I couldn’t dismiss his suggestion entirely. After thinking it over, I asked why he thought I’d be a good mediator. He said I had the right personality. He explained how successful mediators need to be equal parts people pleaser and closer. He added, “One minute, you have to tell someone they are crazy as hell and the next, be willing to jump up and get them a cup of coffee.”

Over the years I’ve come to realize the wisdom in Mike’s observation. Attorneys do select a mediator based on the mediator’s ability to get a case settled but that mediator also has to be someone the attorney wants to spend the day with. There aren’t many personalities who share this unique blend of characteristics.

I enjoyed success as a litigator but I love mediating. The variety of cases always ensures you are learning new things. I’ve learned how highways and bridges are constructed, the complexities of the human brain and how to take a good idea and build it into a multimillion-dollar company.  Each day, I get to work with fascinating people. I’ve mediated with celebrities, politicians, sports stars and leaders of industry. I’ve even mediated cases for two episodes of reality television.

When practicing law, I loved calendar calls. Going to the courthouse gave me the opportunity to visit with my colleagues. At Miles we have seven to ten cases mediating every day. It’s a pleasure to catch up with old friends in the legal industry and make new ones.

How fortunate for me that I was able to turn a personality disorder – people pleasing — into a career. Every morning I go to work, I count my blessings making a living doing what I love.

 


John Miles is the founder of Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services. He has mediated over 2,000 cases and continues to mediate full-time, handling disputes in areas of personal injury, premises liability, insurance, construction, estates, fiduciary, contracts, commercial, business, employment, and subrogation. For more information about John or to schedule a mediation with him, click here. 

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March 20, 2017 No Comments
Why Should Non-Attorneys Complete Mediation Training

by Wendy Williamson, Esq.

I have trained hundreds of lawyers and non-lawyers in civil mediation and participants frequently tell me that they wish they had trained earlier. I encourage you to complete mediator training sooner rather than later for the following reasons:

  1. Practice Enhancement. Any lawyer who represents clients uses negotiating skills in his or her practice. Negotiating skills are like muscles that need training and conditioning. Mediator training is like the P90X for negotiating skills. P90X is an exercise program based upon “Muscle Confusion.” Muscle confusion is the idea that by constantly changing workouts you “confuse” your muscles and thereby increase stimulation and growth. Mediator training uses updated research, hands-on exercises and role plays to exercise different techniques and angles of negotiating skills which will help an attorney find weaknesses, develop additional strengths, open perspectives and grow creativity. Whether you end up in the mediator’s seat or the attorney’s seat, lessons learned through mediator training will enhance your practice.
  1. Client Preparation and Management. My law school education (long ago) was devoted to preparing cases and applying law and precedent. It took years of trial and error to learn how to manage and prepare my clients, which is a whole other skillset. In mediator training, attorneys study how people think and make decisions, how to effectively be agents of reality, how to respectfully deal with emotions and expectations, how to manage their own emotions and how to practice active listening to avoid misunderstandings and develop trust and critical knowledge. In my practice as a mediator, one of the greatest impediments to a healthy and expeditious resolution of a case is a client’s unrealistic expectations of the outcome. The skills honed and practiced in mediator training will help attorneys from the first to the final meetings with their clients. Poorly prepared or unrealistic clients are a predictable source of criticism, disparagement and complaints for attorneys and the legal system when clients believe their attorney or the legal system failed them.
  1. Continuing Education Goldmine. Upon completion of the five-day mediator training and practicum, an attorney receives 28 hours in Continuing Legal Education credit including 3 hours for Ethics and 3 hours of Professionalism. An attorney will be covered for more than two years in CLEs.
  1. Life Management. If you are like me, I find myself having more difficult conversations in my daily life outside of my legal practice. Whether I am dealing with a service provider, my community or government or my family, conflict and negotiation occur with frequency. For example, when I engage with a medical provider or insurance company about an outstanding bill, I find myself practicing de-escalation and active listening instead of screaming [which I would more naturally do]. Have you had a discussion about national politics or the Affordable Care Act lately? Whether we are in parent-teacher conferences, at our bank or dealing with co-workers, we have an increasing need to manage conversations wisely and productively. Mediation training is an invaluable life skill.

I hope I have the privilege to train you in the life skills of negotiation and mediation. Please join a class by clicking here to sign up. 

 


Wendy Williamson, Esq. is a mediator and instructor with Miles in Savannah and Atlanta.  She has over 20 years of mediation experience and is widely considered one of the top mediation trainers in Georgia.  To schedule a mediation with Wendy, please call 678-320-9118 or visit her online calendar.

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March 15, 2017 No Comments

John Miles today delivered his presentation “Successfully Presenting Your Case in Mediation and Arbitration” at Proving Damages, an ICLE seminar chaired by Attorney Eric Hertz.

 

John enjoys sharing insights from his extensive mediation career to help attorneys effectively communicate with and manage the expectations of plaintiffs who are emotionally invested in their case. It’s sometimes easy to forget that for the plaintiff the mediation is their day in court. They believe that the mediation will be their opportunity to be heard. This is particularly true for the emotionally motivated plaintiff, as for them the process is as important as the outcome.

 

 

 


John Miles is the founder of Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services. He has mediated over 2,000 cases and continues to mediate full-time, handling disputes in areas of personal injury, premises liability, insurance, construction, estates, fiduciary, contracts, commercial, business, employment, and subrogation. For more information about John or to schedule a mediation with him, click here. 

 

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March 15, 2017 No Comments

Wendy Williamson recently delivered a presentation entitled, “Professional Training for Attorneys, Part 1” at the Coastal State Bar of Georgia Office in Savannah. The presentation was also available for participants remotely via web-conferencing. All participants received 1.0 hour of professionalism CLE credit.

Wendy will offer another Professionalism webinar on Tuesday, March 28.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

To view Professional Training for Attorneys, Part 1, CLICK HERE. 

 

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