Getting to Know Mediator Shuli Green
Why did you become a lawyer?
I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. I majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and one of the requirements was a First Amendment class. We studied many of the landmark cases involving free speech and defamation. That was when I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I was so enthusiastic that the professor asked me to come back the following semester as a Teacher’s Assistant. Following law school, I pursued a career as a First Amendment lawyer. Shortly after law school, I was hired as one of the attorneys representing Richard Jewell in his lawsuit against the Atlanta Journal and Constitution and several other newspapers that wrongly identified Jewell as the Centennial Park bomber.
Why did you become a neutral?
I have litigated hundreds of cases in numerous different areas of law. But the one thing that holds true regardless of the type of case is the desire for justice for the client. Unfortunately, our civil justice system is not always just or fair. Any lawyer who has practiced for a number of years will tell you “I have won some I should have lost and I have lost some I should have won.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. That’s really what drew me to mediation. Mediation is not about winning or losing. It’s about helping parties achieve a result that, at the end of the day, everyone can agree is fair. The process empowers people to decide for themselves what is fair and just.
What is your area of specialization?
My practice has varied over the years with a mix of transactional work and litigation. On the transactional side I’ve drafted and negotiated hundreds of contracts, including employment contracts, purchase agreements, recording and publishing agreements, etc. I’ve also done quite of bit of transactional copyright and trademark work. On the litigation side I’ve handled medical and legal malpractice cases, construction defect claims, every type of premises liability case (negligent security, slip and fall, drownings), insurance defense, false arrest/imprisonment, defamation, products liability, dog bite cases, auto, trucking, intellectual property, unfair competition, consumer class actions, general business litigation, civil rights cases and a small amount of family law. In recent years my primary focus has been on plaintiff’s personal injury and business litigation.
What are you most proud of with respect to your career?
A few years ago, Daryl Von Yokely, Edtora Jones and I represented the family of an African American man who was essentially gunned down by the police. The man was mentally ill and was unable to obtain his medication because the only hospital in the area closed down. He got into some type of verbal altercation with a local convenience store clerk and then he walked home. An all-white SWAT team busted into his house with a battering ram and fatally shot him. We knew we couldn’t win the case but we all worked really hard on it anyway. Sometimes it’s just about giving people a voice. As lawyers, we have that unique ability and I think we often forget that.
What does ADR look like in 10 years?
I think we will see fewer cases being tried in the next 10 years. We’ve already seen an enormous increase in the number of judges ordering litigants to participate in mediation. When I first started practicing we tried a lot more cases. Now the vast majority of my cases settle during or shortly after mediation. I also think we will see more litigants mediating early on in the process rather than spending time and resources on lengthy discovery. Many businesses now use the mediation process to resolve disputes in the pre-litigation stages. Contracts commonly have mediation or arbitration clauses. In my view, ADR is the future of dispute resolution.
What is your conflict resolution style/approach?
I think a good mediator has the ability to choose the right approach on a case by case basis. What factors are motivating the parties? Are they simply complying with a court order? Are they angry? Do they have a need to be heard or are they just motivated by money? Figuring out what motivates the parties can help the mediator find creative solutions to resolve cases. So, I think the best approach to conflict resolution is to be a good listener first and a problem solver second.
What do you hope to accomplish through your ADR practice?
Being selected to serve as a mediator at Miles is a tremendous opportunity, not just professionally, but also on a personal level. I’ve spent the past 20 years as a litigator zealously representing the interests of one side over another. And regardless of whether I’m representing the plaintiff or defendant, I’m almost always convinced my client is right and the other side is just plain wrong. Sometimes you don’t see all the flaws in your client’s case until you put your client on the stand front of a jury. As hard as we try, it’s not easy to be objective when we’ve put so much time and effort into something. A mediator’s job is to help each side see their case objectively, the way a jury might view it. My goal is to use the insight and experience I’ve gained over the years to bring objectivity to the parties, not by belittling or dismissing their injury or experience, but by sharing the perspective of the opposing side.
How would your clients describe you?
I think I’m relatable to most people. At the end of the day, we’ve all shared some similar experiences. So, I think people feel comfortable opening up because I’m willing to share my own story. As a lawyer, I think my clients would describe me as somewhat motherly, but hopefully in a good way. And they might say I over-explain things.
What do you do in your spare time? How do you unwind?
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time renovating my house. I have two boys so I spend as much time with them as possible, usually watching This is US (my kids think it’s funny because I cry practically the whole time) or wandering around Decatur Square. Oh yeah, I also recently joined a bowling team. I’m not very good.
What characteristic do you most admire in others?
The people I admire most are those who quietly and humbly do the right thing. Simply because it’s the right thing to do. I also admire people who just absolutely refuse to let life get in the way of their happiness.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would rather have talked.” – Mark Twain