“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
That’s a quote attributed to Alexander Graham Bell and couldn’t be more true today. As a divorce attorney, you’re preparation is a lot different than it is as a Mediator. I would know, I am currently a Mediator dedicated exclusively to family law, divorce settlements and child custody and I was also a divorce litigation attorney for many years. Back when I worked at firms like Noyes & Mercer in New Haven, Connecticut, I had a much different preparation strategy than I do now.
As a divorce attorney, you better believe you need to be prepared. That includes drafting a strategy for the best possible outcome for your client. It’s a game with a lot at stake. As a litigator your job is to win.
Boy, am I glad those days are over. Today I am concerned with strategy and “winning” in a whole different way.
I’m concerned with helping couples, as a whole, not one side, to reach an agreement that they can both live with equally. It’s a relief after years of thinking on a one way street. My job is to make sure both parties have all the information–no trial notebooks, pre-marked exhibits and cross-examinations. When a couple comes into our office at Peace Talks Mediation Services, I get to greet both sides knowing that when our sessions together are over, they will have the tools and the knowledge to craft a brighter future for themselves, post-divorce.
In the old days, I’d wear out notebooks with notes and scripts for evidence objections and questioning. I learned from the best, my mentor Carl Porto of Parrett Porto Parese was always the most prepared guy in the room. He always used to teach us that winning was about preparation, being more prepared than the folks at the other end of the table.
My record: in twelve years as divorce litigator I “lost” just once, and by “lose” I mean the judgement wasn’t up to my standards. Not bad.
I miss those days in some ways, but now as a divorce mediator in Los Angeles, it’s a whole different ballgame, one that can be it’s own reward.
My preparation these days consists of notes, worksheets and checklists as well, but now everything is more open. We share our notes and checklists with the clients–both sides. All financial documents are explained and gone through in detail during our sessions to make certain that everyone is up to speed. We debrief after sessions, going over bullet points and drawing out a plan going forward. It’s a more intimate process, with the client in the driver’s seat.
Take advantage of some of the tools we use for free:
Sure, divorce mediation can have it’s fair share of pitfalls, but we all work to pick each other up and attack the problem, like players on a team. We’re in it together.
In fact, the only strategy we need in Mediation is this: Do whatever is necessary to help people to reach an agreement. What a pleasant thought!