First Blog Post

Although I started my career as a litigator, an experience early in my practice showed me the magic of mediation in action. In 1993, a commercial court judge appointed me as a court
inspector to produce a report in a shareholders’ dispute. The disputing parties were a couple in their eighties, partners with a 50% stockholding in three corporations that sold musical instruments.

Soon, I learned more about these parties since in order to produce the report, I had to interview them separately. I discovered that they no longer call each other by their first
names, coldly referring to one another as ‘the other shareholder’. I also listened while the older gentleman confessed to be in love for the first time in his life with an opera singer and that his only wish was to end the dispute to be able to enjoy his life with this ‘prima donna’. ‘The other shareholder’ was a seventy-something older lady, who also happened to be his wife.

They had started their business together while in their twenties selling musical instruments out of a truck. It was no wonder that she had initiated legal action against their three corporations. Ill-advised, she had chosen their companies as the battlefield to fight over their failing marriage. Lastly, this divorcing couple had only one child, a disabled son, so there was no one to continue the family business.

After filing the report with the court, I invited the parties to a meeting at my office. When they arrived, I explained that this conflict was seriously damaging the companies that they had created and successfully managed together for so many years. I suggested that despite their differences they could live in comfort, and that it made no sense to kill the golden goose. So, I cordially invited them to reflect on how they wanted to move forward with their lives.

With tears in their eyes, they told me how they started their business together and suddenly, calling each other by first names again, this couple started to talk about ending their dispute. Both meant well and didn’t want to further harm each other, and both cared for their son. By addressing some basic concepts of mutual financial assurances, I helped them lay down the basis of an agreement that would satisfy their interests and end the litigation. This happy ending was completely unexpected. I was very glad for them and deeply surprised, since I had never seen a miracle like this likely settlement happen right before my eyes. I saw them off and never heard from them again.

I am now a certified mediator and strongly believe that underneath most commercial problems there lies a human problem and that is the area where mediation can make magic happen.