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

January 30, 2017 No Comments
Wendy Williamson, Esq.

by Wendy Williamson, Esq.

No matter the hats your wear, the shoes you stand in, the faces you look into or the space you occupy, you will encounter disputes, difficult conversations, and angry people. When you hit these rough patches, you can either suffer loss and frustration or you can embrace those people and moments as opportunities. I love teaching mediators and managers the practice of mediation and conflict resolution because I know that I am teaching an invaluable life and work skill which is vitally important to progress along modern life’s journey. If you are in the business of managing or resolving disputes, the communication and negotiation skills practiced in mediation training will become your most important and productive tools. Please join me in Civil Mediator Training to begin your challenging and rewarding practice of mediation.

Click here for more information about the training program, or call 678-320-9118 or 912-417-2879.


 

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.

January 30, 2017 No Comments

We’ve recently added a new Civil Mediation Training program at Miles.

The 28-hour civil mediation training course is a practical, comprehensive, hands-on immersion in mediation and the art of managing conflict. The training is available to anyone seeking to learn to resolve conflict, bring closure and build relationships, including professionals in law, psychology, education, social work, human resources, religious entities, and non-profit and corporate management. Upon completion of the training course and the 12-hour practicum, participants will be eligible to register as a mediator.

The training program is led by award-winning mediator and trainer, Wendy Williamson, Esq. Wendy has 30+ years of experience conducting civil and domestic mediations and has trained hundreds of attorneys and professionals in her capacity as a certified mediation trainer.

“I love teaching mediators and managers the practice of mediation and conflict resolution because I know that I am teaching an invaluable life and work skill,” said Ms. Williamson. “If you are in the business of managing or resolving disputes, the communication and negotiation skills practiced in mediation training will become your most important and productive tools.”

The monthly training program will be offered Miles’ locations in Savannah and Atlanta. Tuition is $1050 for the 28-hour course and $350 for the mediation practicum—which is required to register as a certified mediator with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution.

“We are excited to announce that the number one mediation firm now offers mediation training courses in Savannah and Atlanta,” said John Miles, founder of Miles Mediation.  “This course is perfect for attorneys, executives or anyone interested in dispute resolution.”

For more information about the training program, call 678-320-9118 or 912-417-2879, or visit: http://milesmediation.com/general-civil-mediation-training/

January 29, 2017 No Comments

Jennifer Grippa will present on effective mediation strategies at The Seminar Group’s upcoming Insurance in the Construction Industry conference on March 23 & 24, 2017. Lynn Roberson will also be in attendance, as another representative of Team Forsling. 

The conference will cover topics from Case Law Updates to current complex issues such as Duty to Defend, Duty to Settle, Additional Insured Endorsements, and OCIPs, CCIPs, WRAPs and Non-Traditional Insurance. It will also address ethical considerations; such as The Cumis Doctrine, Single Versus Multiple Occurrences Under a CGL Insurance Policy, Builders Risk Insurance v. Commercial General Liability Insurance.

The Insurance in the Construction Industry conference is ideal for attorneys and insurance professionals; attendees will receive the following CLE credit:

GA CLE: 9.5 Hours, including 1.0 Ethics
GA Insurance: 12.0 Property Hours
IRMI: 7.0 Reaccreditation Credits
For more information on the conference, click here.

Jennifer Grippa, Esq. is a mediator and arbitrator with Miles in Atlanta.  She has over 15 years of litigation experience, specializing in construction law. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with Jennifer, please call 678-320-9118 or visit her online calendar.

January 19, 2017 No Comments

Today John Miles continued his tradition of serving as a faculty member at the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association’s (GDLA) annual Trial & Mediation Academy.

The GDLA Trial & Mediation Academy is designed for defense lawyers “seeking to become more accomplished and successful at trial or in mediation.”

John is extremely passionate about helping attorneys learn more about successfully trying cases at mediation.

To request John as a speaker at your next event, please email mdickson@milesmediation.com


John Miles is the founder of Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with John, please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

 

January 17, 2017 No Comments

by David Nutter, Esq.

One of the great privileges of a mediator is that every day you have a front row seat to a miraculous phenomenon. Process has within itself the power of peace. As warring parties turn their attention to a potential resolution and away from the source of the strife, dramatic changes begin to happen: to the parties, to the other participants, and to their perceptions of the problem itself. The change is as dramatic as water to a parched plant. The trained eye sees it immediately.

What’s the secret? The power is contained within the process itself. The effective mediator is the captain of the vessel, but the process itself is the river that runs to resolution. Why? The answer lies within the human heart. By nature, we are all conflicted creatures. One part craves to be victor in the midst of life’s conflicts; the other part yearns for resolution and peace. The active embrace of a process of negotiation has the potential to unlock the power of peace in each of our hearts. If we step into the process with an open heart to a reasonable resolution, the process itself will unveil the pathway to peace.

I wonder if the same pathway to peace is available to us today as a nation? Certainly! It all depends on our hearts. The reality is that at any given moment, I always think I am right about whatever I think should be done regarding the various issues of public policy facing our land. But after fifty-five years of living on the planet, I have discovered (sometimes quite painfully) that I am not always right. Our governmental processes are designed for us to come together in conversation to work together towards unity. Indeed, historians tell us that the word “parliament” derives from the French word “parler,” which means to speak. Thus, in its ideal, our congress and president and courts are to be a community of conversation leading to consensus. This governmental process is available in the United States and a few other places in the world. Everywhere else is under the dictatorship of some dogma or another.

Now, any student of real history (as compared to the patriotic or unpatriotic fictions we are usually fed in school) is aware that the ideal is never reached perfectly, and in some stages of our history, not at all. But it is our process that always contains within itself the possibility of peace; and thus, it is the process itself—not the particular players or policies of any given moment—that must be preserved. The process is paramount.

I fear that we are in danger today of forgetting that. If you do not like the outcome of the latest election, then there will be another one in two years. Our two-hundred and forty years of practice teaches us that, under changing labels, liberals and conservatives, progressives and pragmatists, centralizers and de-centralizers, moralists and immoralists, have been winning and losing elections and wielding and losing power throughout. And the truth is that they are all sometimes and partially right and sometimes wrong. Most real truth contains some paradox. If we travel too far down a particular trail of truth, we one day wake up in a wilderness of error. But our process, our community of conversation, always provides the needed correction.

Only once in our history did we turn away from our wonderful process and instead choose to exalt our competing dogmas. The results were deadly and devastating. The Civil War is fun to read about but it was an utter disaster to the people who lived and died through it. We have a great governmental process, which I believe is a gift from God to us. May we embrace it and engage one another with mutual respect, turning away from what divides us, and seeking solutions that we all can accept. The policy results won’t ever be perfect, but in the process, we will find again the power of peace.

 


Team Leader David Nutter has successfully mediated and arbitrated over 1,500 cases since joining Miles. His team specializes in complex business disputes, employment, corporate and partnership litigation and dissolutions, and banking and finance. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with Mr. Nutter please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

 

January 12, 2017 No Comments

by John K. Miles, Jr.

I remember little about some cases, and I’ve completely forgotten others. For my clients, however, the day the jury returned its verdict was among the most significant in their lives. A loss for me was disappointing; for the plaintiff it was devastating. I was arguing a position, but the position didn’t belong to me. I was not the one who was damaged. I did not look into the jurors’ eyes and share my story. My clients did.

The client’s story contained many painful and emotional facts significant to her. From my point of view, an adverse trial result was a loss for the client. From the client’s point of view, the jurors heard what she had to say and didn’t agree with her.

Some years ago I tried a case for an elderly woman who broke her shoulder when she tripped and fell in a store. As is true in many premises liability cases, the issue was liability, not damages. The defendant never questioned the extent of my client’s injury or the effect it had on her. I remember how embarrassed she was to testify about the effects of the shoulder injury. As is true of her generation, she did not like discussing personal matters in public. On the stand she recounted to the jury how she could no longer unclasp her bra from the back.

Liability was the issue for the jury as well. In this case a raised floor tile caused the fall. The jury believed everything my client said about the incident. They never doubted her injury or the reasonableness of her damages. They had to determine whether the store had superior knowledge of the condition that caused the fall.

Given the facts that no one else had tripped on the tile and the nature of the defect was minor, the jury decided in favor of the store. Frankly, it was the correct decision. Because the defendant never made a settlement offer, we were forced to try the case. It was a long shot, but we took it. We put up a good case, but we lost.

While the result was discouraging, it was—from my perspective—expected. The same could not be said for my client. After the judge read the verdict, she looked at the jury and said, “How could you?”

I was surprised and somewhat embarrassed by my client’s outburst. I assumed her conduct was due to disappointment over the loss, coupled with the realization that she didn’t receive money for all her time and trouble. Walking her to her car, I came to realize that it was about more than that. She wept as she explained that what hurt the most was that the jury hadn’t believed her. I could not convince her that the verdict was no reflection on her credibility. I failed to realize that my client was expressing sorrow over her sense of rejection. She had revealed something painful and personal, and she lost. She made herself vulnerable, and she had been rejected.

In Everybody’s All-American, Dennis Quaid plays a former LSU football player who longs for his days of gridiron glory. As a star athlete, he had basked in the cheers from the crowd. The cheering ceased when he graduated. He found it difficult to replace what he felt when a stadium full of adoring fans chanted his name.

The day comes when LSU decides to honor his championship team. He is lined up on the field with his former teammates. One by one the announcer calls their names, but the crowd is not cheering. Quaid’s character looks around in alarm at the fans who, rather than cheering, are engrossed in conversation or making their way to the concession stands. The audience can see the disappointment on his face as he waits for his name to be called. When his name is called, the crowd erupts in cheers. He breaks into a huge smile as he acknowledges his fans. As the camera pans away, we see that the cheers are not for Quaid. The current LSU team has taken the field. Upon realizing what has happened, he is devastated.

For some, the thought of rejection is unbearable. Just as for Quaid, plaintiffs can’t imagine having a jury find against them. They refuse to invest so much of themselves in a process that could result in failure.

It goes without saying that I enjoy movies. Occasionally, I even rent a romantic comedy. The story is predictable. Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl. The climactic scene of the movie involves the boy (imagine Hugh Grant) rushing across town to stop his beloved from marrying the wrong man. He always arrives just in the nick of time. The girl has realized she can’t go through with a marriage to a man she doesn’t love. Boy and girl live happily ever after or until the sequel.

While we typically root for true love, many of us are reluctant to risk rejection. If we become vulnerable, we lose control. We risk being hurt. We choose to guard our heart rather than risk pain. What is true for the one in love is also true for plaintiffs. Both have a choice. They can bear their souls and risk rejection, or they can play it safe. Hollywood storylines aside, most of us prefer to play it safe, particularly with things that really matter to us. Mediation offers an easier choice for the plaintiff motivated by fear.

Properly conducted mediations allows the plaintiff an opportunity to be heard, to fully express himself in a safe environment without fear of rejection. The defendant is obviously not required to agree with the plaintiff. However, by listening respectfully to the plaintiff and by participating in the negotiating process, the defendant helps eliminate any fear of rejection that the plaintiff might have.

The mediation process alleviates the fear motivators: public speaking, formidable environment, compromising evidence, rejection. Because it is based on compromise, mediation does not allow the plaintiff to get all she wants. She is nevertheless affirmed. She has a hearing and obtains a result that validates the significance of what happened to her.

Click here to read “The Fear Motivator” (Part 1)

*This excerpt is taken from John Miles’s book, “A New Day in Court.” 


 

John Miles is the founder of Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with him,  please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

 

January 10, 2017 No Comments
The Fear Motivator by Mediator John Miles

by John K. Miles, Jr.

 

“At the beginning of every act of faith, 
there is often a seed of fear.”

—Max Lucado

“We were harassed at every turn—
conflicts on the outside, fears within.”

—2 Corinthians 7:5

Persons motivated by fear typically resolve their case rather than proceed with litigation. The fear of what might happen is greater than any benefit they may achieve at trial.

For some, the fear is of public speaking. Not too long ago I heard about the finding that most people fear public speaking more than they fear dying. One could assume that of those in attendance at a funeral, most would rather be the deceased than give the eulogy. Those of us who make our living in court find it hard to identify with this fear. While we may have some anxiety before we begin a jury trial or argue a motion before a judge, we have no fear that would prevent us from going forward. Most plaintiffs do not earn their living from the legal system. For them, the natural fear of speaking publicly is compounded by the formality of the legal process.

Courthouses and courtrooms can be intimidating. Attorneys can recall how they felt when they entered the courtroom to argue their first case. Also, the method of communication in court is unnatural for people who are not accustomed to it. Before one can testify, a person is placed under oath. Most plaintiffs want to tell their story in their own way. The system requires that they first answer questions from their attorney and then from opposing counsel. Plaintiffs talk about painful and personal issues before an audience of complete strangers. Given the fears of public speaking, intimidation, embarrassment, and rejection, it is not surprising that most plaintiffs are fearful of trial.

For some, the natural fear of trial is coupled with fear of what the litigation process might reveal. Not too long ago I mediated a case that both attorneys agreed had significant value. Nonetheless, the plaintiff showed no interest in pursuing the case. Against her attorney’s advice, she accepted a low settlement offer. Following the mediation, I learned that the plaintiff was having an affair. She was afraid that if the case went to trial, her secret life would be exposed.

On another occasion, I was mediating a sexual harassment case. The defendant denied that he had done anything inappropriate. During the course of the mediation, the plaintiff attorney requested that I ask the defendant if the defendant’s wife knew about the plaintiff’s allegations. The defendant stated that his wife knew everything and that she was in complete support. The plaintiff’s case did not seem that strong to me, yet the plaintiff refused to reduce her demand. At the end of the day, the plaintiff attorney sent me into the defendant’s room with their final offer and a notice for the deposition of the defendant’s wife. The defendant responded by saying he would be happy to make his wife available for deposition and that he would see the plaintiff in court. The case did not go to court. It settled the next day for the plaintiff’s last demand. I don’t know what the defendant told his wife.

I suspect, however, that it is not the fear of public speaking or revelation of an unsavory secret that drives many to settle their case rather than risk trial. I believe that most people who are primarily motivated by fear are afraid of rejection. Those of us who try cases for a living love what we do. We are at home in the arena of a trial. We work hard for our clients, and we want to win. A fierce, competitive spirit is at the heart of every litigator. I imagine that the anxiety we experience while we await the jury’s decision is similar to what football players experience as they watch a kicker attempt a game-winning field goal. The livelihoods of the litigator and the football player depend on the outcome of the game. We need to win more cases than we lose. And in the end, there will always be another chance to do battle.

The plaintiffs, on the other hand, view the game from a different perspective. This case is their only chance. What the jury decides will have a dramatic and lasting impact on their lives. These two ways of looking at the same situation remind me of a story I heard about the difference between a chicken and a pig when it comes to their role in breakfast. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.

Click here to read The Fear Motivator (Part 2)

*This excerpt is taken from John Miles’s book, “A New Day in Court.”


John Miles is the founder of Miles Mediation & Arbitration. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with him,  please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

January 5, 2017 No Comments

by David Nutter, Esq.

One of the common misperceptions about peacemaking is that it is born out of weakness. Actually, for lasting and effective peacemaking, the opposite is true. Only from the solid ground of strength can we build a lasting structure of peace.

The history of nations provides many examples. President Theodore Roosevelt was viewed by his critics as a jingoistic war-monger. But a review of his actual record reveals that his tenure as President produced a period of great peace: the only real conflict being the one in the Philippines that he inherited from President McKinley. His presidency ended with The Great White Fleet of the U.S. Navy sailing completely around the world signaling security through strength.

Similarly, Winston Churchill was decried throughout the 1930’s as a warmonger as he repeatedly warned the British and French governments that they needed to deal with the growing Hitler menace from the ground of preparedness and strength. Indeed, Churchill believed to his dying day that WWII could have been averted if the United States had embraced its own international duties, along with the British and French, in the years following WWI.

The same seeming paradox applies in other peacemaking arenas including litigation. It is the one fully prepared to try their case who will obtain an effective peace. Lack of preparation and resolve results in capitulation, not peacemaking. Some battles will need to be fought, and some cases will need to be tried. Those known to be willing to fervently fight are the ones most likely to obtain an effective peace. To be sure, motives matter. If one is determined to always fight for fighting’s sake, and views every peace as a capitulation, there will never be peace. But if one is prepared to fight while preferring an honorable peace, more often than not a reasonable resolution will be at hand.


Team Leader David Nutter has successfully mediated and arbitrated over 1,500 cases since joining Miles. His team specializes in complex business disputes, employment, corporate and partnership litigation and dissolutions, and banking and finance. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with Mr. Nutter please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

January 3, 2017 No Comments

Congratulations to Jennifer Grippa for being named in Georgia Trend‘s 2016 “Legal Elite” for her expertise in Real Estate and Construction Law.  Georgia Trend’s annual “Legal Elite” issue honors attorneys selected by members of the Georgia Bar as the most effective in 14 different practice areas. Thousands of Georgia attorneys responded to the survey and voted for attorneys they deemed the best in Georgia.

To view the PDF version of the article click here. 

As a member of Team Forsling, Jennifer leads our construction mediation group and also handles complex business litigation and personal injury cases. She is highly regarded in the construction law field for her both her extensive litigation background and her effectiveness in resolving difficult mediation cases.

 


 

Jennifer Grippa Esq. is a mediator and arbitrator with Miles in Atlanta.  She has over 15 years of litigation experience, specializing in construction law. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with Jennifer, please call 678-320-9118 or visit her online calendar.

December 16, 2016 No Comments


Parag Shah was recently appointed by Mayor Kasim Reed to serve as a judge on the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. His new role is an exciting adjunct to his robust mediation practice at Miles, where he is a valued member of Team Forsling.

Parag is the author of three books: The Code Criminal, The Code Civil and The Code Evidenceall published by the Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia, and he is currently working on a series of “How To” books slated for publication in 2017.

To learn more about Parag, click here.

 

 

 


Parag Shah, Esq. is a mediator with Miles Mediation in Atlanta.  He has over 10 years of experience as a personal injury and criminal defense attorney. To schedule a mediation with Parag, please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

December 2, 2016 No Comments

On Sunday, December 4, Mediator Jennifer Grippa will appear on Due Process, a new hour-long weekly show on Newstalk 1160 (WCFO AM). Jennifer will discuss trends in alternative dispute resolution and share her experiences mediating complex construction cases. Her segment airs from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Hosted by Ed Davidson, Due Process features respected and nationally-known arbitrators, mediators, and ADR consultants.

Jennifer Grippa Radio Interview: Sunday, December 4
Show: Due Process
Station: Newstalk 1160 (WCFO AM)
Airs 2 p.m.- 3 p.m.

 

 

 

 


Jennifer Grippa Esq. is a mediator and arbitrator with Miles Mediation in Atlanta.  She has over 15 years of  litigation experience, specializing in construction law. To schedule a mediation with Jennifer, please call 678-320-9118 or visit her online calendar.

November 22, 2016 No Comments

If you are headed to Miles anytime before December 20, 2016, you are welcome to bring an unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots program. The donation box is located in the front lobby.

“The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.”

To learn more about the Toys for Toys program, click here.

To contact Miles about a toy donation, please call 678-320-9118.

 

November 21, 2016 No Comments

In an effort to support Water Life Hope, a non-profit devoted to bringing potable water to areas of the Caribbean that are in desperate need, Team Leader David Nutter and his team are sponsoring the organization’s first annual Casino Night Gala on December 3, 2016.

Ed Buckley, managing partner of Buckley Beal LLP, is the founder of Water Life Hope and shared the following message:

“For the past ten years, we have focused on Haiti, where approximately half the population has only contaminated water for its drinking, bathing and cooking needs. In that time, we have raised funds to pay for over 300 artesian wells, reservoirs and water filtration units. Now, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Haiti is suffering. Water systems have been contaminated and cholera is again on the rise. On Saturday, December 3, Water Life Hope will have its First Annual Casino Night to raise funds for much-needed relief because of Hurricane Matthew.  All funds will go directly to hurricane relief in Haiti and will be put to immediate use to bring clean water to the people of Haiti.”

Water Life Hope Charity

Ed Buckley in Haiti with his charity, Water Life Hope.

 

If you are interested in supporting Water Life Hope, please click here for more information.

If you are interested in attending the Casino Night Gala, please click here for more information.


Team Nutter members include Team Leader David Nutter, Burke Johnson, David Schaeffer, Scott Delius and Steve McKinney. 

November 17, 2016 No Comments

by Hon. Patricia Stone 

My transition from full-time judging to alternative dispute resolution has been filled with interesting challenges.  While I continue to occasionally serve as a senior judge, I have welcomed the shift of focus from trial judge to an arbitrator and mediator of civil and domestic disputes.

By definition, judges are expected to hear and weigh the evidence presented in court and often make the final decisions in cases on an almost daily basis.   For that reason, judges are generally considered to make excellent arbitrators. The roles are nearly identical.  The transition from judging to mediation, however, is far more challenging.  While every judge’s journey from the bench to the mediation conference table is unique, the purpose of this article is to recount my own personal observations of the transition.

I began my ADR training with a determination to learn, adapt and adjust in order to become an effective mediator.  As the training continued, I could not help but internally compare the two roles, and paid very close attention to the similarities and differences.  I found that many of the skills acquired as a judge actually dovetail perfectly into the skills necessary to be a successful neutral.  Although judges and mediators both must listen carefully to information provided by attorneys and their clients, I quickly learned that they listen for very different reasons. Instead of listening to understand the issues and render a decision as a judge, mediators listen in order to understand, reframe and facilitate positive communication so that the parties themselves may make their own decisions. Overall, however, there are actually many more similarities between the positions than there are differences, as the same skills and qualities often apply to both.

The best judges are those that are creative on the bench within the confines of the law.  They work with the lawyers to help craft solutions and settle cases.  These judges are good communicators.  Many times, there is a hidden issue driving the controversy beyond what is presented.  Judges must learn to clarify the underlying issues, look for the real motives behind the conflict and ask the right questions.  In addition, most judges are comfortable working with people in crisis and in unusual and emotional situations, and have experience dealing with people in all conditions and under all circumstances.  Further, judges are intimately familiar with the court process and have extensive proficiency working with opposing lawyers advocating divergent positions.  While the end goal may be different, the development of a skilled mediator requires the mastery of precisely these same skills and abilities.

Like a successful neutral, it is important to remember that judges must always keep an open mind to both sides.  While the attorneys zealously advocate for their clients, it is crucial that judges remain neutral and objective in evaluating the evidence presented. Given a judge’s ethical duty to listen carefully and weigh the evidence in an unbiased manner, the transition from neutral judge to neutral mediator is fairly seamless, particularly with regard to impartiality.  However, the mediator with prior judicial experience must recognize from the beginning that he or she is not acting as a judge, and work diligently through training to master the subtle yet critical change of mindset that applies to the principles of mediation.

There are myriad ways in which the experience of serving as a judge can prove beneficial during a mediation. Judges are in a unique position to discuss the benefits of mediation and the difficulties people may face at trial.  Judges eminently understand and are uniquely qualified to convey the additional expense of going to court, both financially and emotionally.  They understand that a settlement has better, long-lasting results when the parties work together toward a negotiated agreement instead of fighting at trial.  In domestic mediations, for example, a child is far more likely to successfully cope with such a major life change if his or her divorced parents are able to effectively communicate and work together peacefully through mediation.  Partners in a construction company have a much better chance of resolving their conflicts amicably and continue their working relationship in the future through mediation rather than litigation.  Neighbors fighting over a property line have a better chance of compromising and resolving angry feelings through the mediation process.  Even in difficult wrongful death and medical malpractice cases, the result is always more positive if the parties are able to work through the issues themselves, instead of going through the more divisive court process.  Judges can describe literally thousands of similar examples to help educate and illuminate even the most obstinate of clients.

I have already experienced several occasions in which attorneys have referenced the added authority of my position as a judge to help convince a difficult client to be open-minded to rational and reasonable suggestions.  In fact, it is not unusual for both attorneys to agree on the value of a particular case, but one or more of their clients is taking a very intractable position.  The boost of authority that comes from getting input from an actual or former judge can be helpful and effectual in these situations.  While it is obviously important that former judges refrain from going beyond the role as a mediator, most judges are happy to share their perspective when asked to do so by an attorney.

Overall, the experience of a judge can be an asset to any attorney seeking a successful mediation, particularly in difficult and complex cases.  No matter how solid the case and well-prepared the attorney, it still ultimately comes down to the client’s decision.  Just as Hollywood is rife with stories of well-written scripts that were ruined by directors who were unable to effectively frame and convey the story to the audience, even a perfect legal case may not successfully settle if the mediator is unable to effectively communicate and reframe the issues and interests of the parties.  Mediators are unchained from the limiting rules of the courtroom, but the skills and experience learned in that courtroom can make all the difference.


 

Hon. Patricia Stone is a mediator and arbitrator with Miles Mediation in Savannah.  She has over 21 years of experience as a prosecutor, juvenile court judge and mediator of civil and domestic cases. To schedule a mediation with Tricia, please call 678-320-9118 or visit her online calendar. 

 

November 15, 2016 No Comments

Team Leader Joe Murphey recently appeared on Atlanta Legal Experts to discuss various aspects of the mediation process.

You may listen to the full broadcast here:

Atlanta Legal Experts airs weekly on Tuesdays at 8 a.m. eastern and is hosted by Emily Rowell and Rich Casanova.

According to ALE, the show aims to: Reach all attorneys and associates in the legal field and provide much- needed information to help them on all different hot topics of today’s legal world. Typically guests are attorneys who are experts in their field, representatives of the local legal associations, and a mix of legal professors, authors, and speakers to provide the audience with a resource of information.

 

November 11, 2016 No Comments
Wendy Williamson, Esq.

Mediator Wendy Williamson recently presented at the 2016 Georgia Child Support Conference in Columbus, G.A.  The conference covered a variety of topics related to child support including the new online calculator, income deduction, child support in military families, self-employment, and more.

Wendy’s presentation, entitled “Child Support 101,” covered the fundamentals of Child Support, explaining the Statue and related questions.

To view Wendy’s full presentation materials, click here.

For information about the conference, click here.

 


 

Wendy Williamson, Esq. is a mediator with Miles Mediation in Savannah.  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.

November 10, 2016 No Comments

Insights and Suggestions for Improving the Chances of Success at Mediation

Mediator Douglas WildeIntroduction

After nearly three decades of practicing law as a trial lawyer, and attending multiple dozens of mediations as counsel, I developed a sense for how to best present my client’s case at mediation in order to obtain a desirable outcome. For the most part, this approach was successful and, in those cases that did not get resolved, it was almost always due to the other side’s taking of an unreasonable or unyielding position. However, after a becoming a registered neutral three years ago and having mediated close to 100 cases since that time, I realized that the approach I had been taking for all that time, while generally successful, was not necessarily providing my client the opportunity to achieve the optimum settlement possible. Although this article is the result of things I have seen and experienced during my brief time as a mediator, due to this relatively small sample size, I have polled a number of more experienced mediators, and have incorporated their thoughts and insights into this process as well.

Choice of Mediator

Whether court-ordered or voluntary, the selection of mediator can go a long way toward getting the case resolved. One commonly used approach is to let the opposing counsel select the mediator, the thought being that that counsel’s client would be more receptive to the pressures applied by that mediator. While there is a certain degree of validity to this type of selection process, I believe it is important that the mediator’s background and experience be suited to the case at hand. While a skilled mediator can learn the law of the case from the attorneys involved, either at the mediation or through a pre-mediation statement, I have found, both as a participant as well as a mediator, that experience in the respective area of law brings more credibility to the impressions and opinions expressed by the mediator, particularly to the parties themselves. It is one thing for a mediator who has never tried a personal injury case to comment on issues related to liability and damages; it is something completely different when those comments are coming from a mediator having extensive experience in handling and trying PI cases.

Choosing the right mediator for mediation

In addition to substantive knowledge, a good mediator should be knowledgeable of and experienced in the mediation process – can he relate to an unsophisticated plaintiff and express empathy; can he control the pace and timing of the negotiations; will he remain persistent in seeking a resolution, even after an impasse has occurred; does he effectively utilize tactics such as bracketing or mediator’s numbers? It is worthwhile to find out the answers to these questions prior to agreeing to or selecting a mediator, either by asking colleagues who have utilized the mediator in the past or by asking the proposed mediator himself. Having a comfort level with the mediator ultimately selected is critical to the success of the process.

Have the Client Present if at all Possible

It goes without saying that the prospects for settlement increase significantly when the decision-makers are in attendance at the mediation. Although there may be a situation where the plaintiff is unable to attend in person, either because of age, infirmity or distance, it goes without saying that the party bringing the action should be present. More often, the issue with attendance arises with the defendant, such as where the insurance adjuster is out of state. The adjuster who “attends” by telephone has, in all likelihood, not previously met the plaintiff and is unable to fully understand and appreciate the various subtleties of the claim without seeing and hearing them firsthand. By the same token, having the adjuster present gives the plaintiff the impression that the defendant is taking the case seriously and actually hearing what she has to say. For this reason, I feel it is important for the non-attending adjuster to at least listen in an opening session. As a matter of professional courtesy, I believe it is also important for defense counsel to advise plaintiff’s counsel if the adjuster is not planning to attend the session in person.

Be Prepared

Based not only on my experience as a mediator, but also on comments elicited from fellow mediators in preparing for this presentation, the single factor that most often results in a less-than-optimum settlement is the failure to properly prepare. While this is occasionally an issue with defense counsel, it most often occurs with plaintiff’s counsel who mistakenly believes that less time and effort put into preparing for mediation will result in a higher net return. However, the failure to properly prepare for the mediation often has just the opposite result; a defendant who recognizes that plaintiff’s counsel is not truly committed to taking a case to trial, and is utilizing the mediation simply as a means of obtaining a quick and inexpensive settlement, is less apt to offer the full settlement value of the claim. As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Mediation preparation

Preparing for mediation obviously begins with the attorney. Whether representing the plaintiff or the defendant, counsel must know the facts and legal issues involved in her case inside and out. In a personal injury (PI) case, being able to recite the relevant facts of the underlying incident, the nature and extent of the injuries sustained, the extent of the treatment received and the amount of special damages being claimed is essential to an effective opening session. If liability is in dispute, a brief discussion of the law and a recitation of controlling authority is likewise recommended. Similar to the goal of an opening statement in a jury trial, in which an attorney is attempting to persuade at least a few of the jurors of the correctness of her position, the opening session in a mediation should be geared toward laying out the strengths of the case, not just for the mediator, but for the defendant’s representatives, who is the one with the checkbook.

Preparing for mediation also means preparing the client for mediation. Rather than simply having the plaintiff show up at the mediator’s office 30 minutes before the scheduled start time, it is beneficial to meet with the client beforehand to explain the process and prepare the client for what is likely to be a long day. The client should be advised that, contrary to the adversarial nature of litigation, mediation provides the singular opportunity to work collaboratively with the other side in pursuit of a common goal. Toward that end, I feel it is highly beneficial to have the plaintiff make a brief statement during the opening session, not merely to go over the facts of the underlying incident, but to speak more to the impact that the injuries have had on her life. Unlike the short and measured tone of answering questions in a deposition, a brief but sincere statement in the opening session, made directly to the defendant’s representative or insurance adjuster, gives the impression that she is being heard, an important first step on the road to settlement.

Likewise, I feel it is also important for the defendant’s representative or insurance adjuster to also make a few brief comments, addressed to the plaintiff,following defense counsel’s presentation. While an apology, where appropriate, is always nice, even just an expression of sympathy for what the plaintiff has been going through can act as an icebreaker and open the door to meaningful dialogue.

Avoid Last Minute Surprises

The fastest and most sure-fire way to derail mediation is to show up and present tens of thousands of dollars in increased medical expenses or special damages for the first time. The insurance company has based its settlement evaluation on the information and materials it had been provided previously, and it will be unable to assimilate and re-evaluate its settlement position on the day of mediation. While this situation is occasionally unavoidable, such as when the client shows up at a mediation with a stack previously unproduced medical bills, it usually can be avoided through thorough and proper preparation. When this situation does arise at the last minute, it is best to contact defense counsel to advise him of the new information and offer to postpone the mediation so the new information can be considered by the defendant.
A similar situation to avoid, if at all possible, is showing up at mediation and presenting a markedly increased settlement demand from that which had last been conveyed prior to mediation. While this, again, may be the unavoidable consequence of obtaining new information, it is important to remember that defendant’s counsel and the insurance representative are viewing the previous demand as the ceiling for the negotiations, above which it is not prepared to go. As in the above situation, a call to defense counsel prior to mediation would be appreciated.

Utilize the Mediator

It is not uncommon for a party, whether the plaintiff or the insurance representative, to appear at mediation with a preconceived and fixed idea of how the jury will view their case, not only as to liability but on the value of the case as well. This is certainly understandable since each side has been focused on the case from one perspective or the other; the issues appear to be black and white, rather than differing shades of gray. While this is more often the case with a plaintiff in a personal injury case, it can take place on the defense side where, for one reason or another, the adjuster has taken a “line in the sand” approach. In that situation, it is helpful to take the mediator aside and let her know that the client has taken, or is taking, what may be considered as an unreasonable position. Having this knowledge assists the mediator in determining which strategies or tactics to employ during caucus.

Be Aware of Hospital Liens, Medicare Liens and Reimbursement Claims

While this clearly falls within the “Be Prepared” section previously covered, I believe it is significant enough to make it a separate topic. The existence and amount of liens and reimbursement claims, whether asserted by a hospital, physician’s practice, Medicare or health insurer, has a direct impact on the net recovery to the plaintiff, and counsel should be prepared to address these claims at mediation. If a hospital or physician’s practice lien has been asserted, determine if it has been properly perfected. If the plaintiff is a Medicare beneficiary, determine the amount of any conditional payments that have been made as well as the relationship of any such payments to the underlying incident. If a third-party insurer has paid or satisfied some of the medical expenses involved, find out ahead of time if it is a self-funded plan governed by ERISA or if the payments have been made by an insurance company. While the ability to negotiate any of these claims or liens may not present itself until multiple moves into the session, it is crucial to the success of the process to be aware of all liens and claims and to have a strategy in mind to satisfy them. Likewise, defense counsel also needs to be aware of their existence and to have a plan in place for their resolution that does not expose the defendant to a possible double payment.

Utilize Alternative Strategies to Avoid Impasse

Inevitably, every mediation will reach the point where one side or the other has indicated that it is not willing to make any further concessions, either by lowering the settlement demand or increasing the settlement offer. Assuming that that “final” position is not acceptable to the other side, it may be helpful to employ an alternative strategy to avoid an impasse. Consult with the mediator on which strategies might be best received in the other room.

Bracketing is one alternative for a party to offer significant movement in exchange for a corresponding concession from the other side. Utilize the mediator in coming up with the brackets since he has been in the other room and knows what numbers will be well-received, or at least not rejected out of hand.

Another option is to consider some form of non-monetary compensation. In some situations, a formal written apology may be the icing on the cake that the plaintiff needs to bring closure to the case. Another tactic is to offer gift certificates or gift cards, if appropriate, in addition to a sum of money. In a retail premises liability case, this can be seen as the extending of an olive branch to the plaintiff that provides a benefit to both sides. Finally, if impasse appears imminent, a mediator’s proposal can be utilized as a last resort. This involves the mediator suggesting the proposed settlement terms which, if agreeable to both sides, results in a settlement. If one side rejects the proposal, there is no settlement and neither side is informed if the other side had accepted the proposal.

Even if the mediation session results in an impasse, this does not necessarily mean the process is over. A plaintiff, who is tired and frustrated after a long and unsuccessful mediation session, may need time to sleep on it or discuss the settlement proposal with family members. Similarly, an insurance adjuster may need time to re- evaluate the company’s position to see if additional authority can be issued. I attempt to remain in contact with the attorneys following an impasse to see if there is any interest in continuing the process by telephone. In order for these continuing efforts to have any chance of success following an impasse, it is important for the parties to leave the mediation session on a cordial and optimistic note. Storming out of the mediator’s office without acknowledging the other side is unlikely to result in any further concessions from that side.


 

Douglas Wilde, Esq. is a mediator with Miles Mediation in Atlanta.  He has over 30 years of experience as a defense attorney, personal injury attorney, and mediator. To schedule a mediation with Douglas, please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.

October 31, 2016 No Comments

We’re proud to announce that Miles was voted the #1 Alternative Dispute Resolution Firm in Daily Report’s Annual Best Of Reader Rankings Survey. In addition, Team Leader Greg Parent earned the distinction of being voted the #1 Mediator/Arbitrator, and John Miles was voted the #2 Mediator/Arbitrator.

This is the third consecutive year Miles was voted into the top spot, and Greg’s inaugural award is a category that the Daily Report added this year—a testament to the growing industry of ADR and the need to identify top mediators and arbitrators.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as the premier ADR firm in Georgia,” said John Miles. “I am proud of this accomplishment, not because we won an award, but because of what it represents. It represents our clients’ trust, and it’s their trust that has led to the growth and success of Miles. Greg’s achievement is even more remarkable when you consider that he has only been mediating since 2012. He’s the best in the state and his best years are still ahead of him.”

The Daily Report’s Best Of Readers Ranking Survey gives legal professionals an opportunity to vote for the best legal service providers and products. For more information and to see a list of the complete results, click here.

October 31, 2016 No Comments

We’re proud to announce that Team Leader Gregory Parent was voted the No. 1 Mediator/Arbitrator in the Daily Report’s Annual Best Of Reader Rankings Survey. Greg’s inaugural award is a category that the Daily Report added this year—a testament to the growing industry of ADR and the need to identify top mediators and arbitrators.

“Greg’s achievement is even more remarkable when you consider that he has only been mediating since 2012,” said John Miles. “He’s the best in the state and his best years are still ahead of him.”

Greg joined Miles in 2012 and quickly ascended to the level of team leader. He mediates cases involving high-end personal injury, premises liability, trucking liability, toxic torts and employment. He also manages a team of seven neutrals who specialize in mediation, arbitration and special master services.

In addition to Mr. Parent’s award, Miles was voted the #1 Alternative Dispute Resolution Firm in Georgia for the third consecutive year.

The Daily Report’s Best Of Readers Ranking Survey gives legal professionals an opportunity to vote for the best legal service providers and products. For more information about Greg’s award and to see a list of the complete results, click here.

 

October 26, 2016 No Comments

We’re pleased to announce the addition of Stephen “Steve” McKinney as the newest mediator/arbitrator at Miles and member of Team Leader David Nutter’s team.

Steve brings significant experience to Miles, having spent over 28 years as a litigator. He is a sought-after mediator and arbitrator with a national profile who has resolved thousands of disputes and tried cases in venues around the country. He has broad experience handling product liability, broker/dealer, trust and estates, finance, and intellectual property matters. He is also a respected neutral within the ADR community who has presided over many cases to final arbitration ruling.

Before joining Miles, Steve was an Equity Partner at Haynesworth, Sinkler & Boyd in Columbia, S.C., and prior to building his practice there, he served as staff counsel for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Counsel of Georgia and the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office.

I’ve known Steve for over 17 years. He is a man of tremendous integrity and legal mastery,” said Founder of Miles Mediation, John Miles. “He has established himself as an elite mediator and arbitrator, and I’m thrilled he has decided to join Team Nutter. He brings increased depth to a team that specializes in mediating complex commercial matters.”

Steve has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America since 2010 in the topic areas of Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, and Environmental Litigation and by South Carolina Super Lawyers. He received his Juris Doctorate from Emory University School of Law in 1988; a Master of Divinity from the Southern Theological Seminary in 1985; and a Bachelor of Arts from Furman University in 1982.

To learn more about Steve and view his availability, click here.

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