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  • Writer's picturePhillip McCallum

My Philosophy as a Mediator

There are lots of lawyers who hold themselves out as mediators. Some have undertaken the extensive and worthwhile training necessary to be listed on the state court roster while some have not. Some have extensive experience as a lawyer and/or as a mediator, while others do not. All have different styles, philosophies, perspectives, and experiences – as a lawyer, as a mediator, and simply as an individual. Regardless, parties and their counsel should make an informed decision and select a mediator who best fits their needs for a given dispute. Then, they should make the most of their decision.

A related strength, which has also proven invaluable, is my ability to see things from different perspectives – from everyone's perspective.

My experience as a lawyer is extensive and more importantly... diverse. I began my legal career as a prosecutor and handled all types of cases from juvenile family court matters to capital murder trials. I dealt with all types of people from all walks of life. I grew up quickly and my life experiences broadened rapidly. After several years as a prosecutor, I set out to explore the world of civil litigation. I worked with a two-person firm before branching out and starting my own solo practice, which ultimately became an eight-person firm with a national footprint. I've handled virtually all types of civil litigation cases for individuals and businesses. While my success was more likely the result of luck rather than skill, my ability to relate to a wide variety of people helped. Regardless of a person's education, background, upbringing, or socio-economic standing, I feel comfortable relating to and communicating with them.

Lessons learned are also an invaluable experience.

But the experiences that have proven helpful as a mediator go beyond my work as an attorney but are an extension of it. I served as the leader and manager of a law firm with a growing and extensive practice, which meant all of the headaches, challenges, and opportunities of any business and its associated overhead – human resources, fixed costs, variable costs, risk management, capital management, cash flow, and the like. These factors were magnified in scope, magnitude, and complexity when I served as Executive Director of the Alabama State Bar, with its 18,000+ members, 40 employees, and its status as a quasi-state agency.

But experience alone does not a good mediator make. Working as a mediator is a craft, much like practicing law but at the same time wholly different.

A good mediator plays many different roles at different times depending on what is necessary. He is more than a shuttle diplomat, though there are times when that is an important role to play. And he is more than a third-party evaluator giving his opinion on the value of the case, though that too may have its time and place.

A successful mediator has the ability to see things from everyone’s perspective, knows when to be active or passive, facilitative or evaluative, and has the credibility and experience to back it up. Someone once asked about my mediation style. My answer? Whatever it takes. And I take great pride in knowing what that is, in having the wherewithal to be flexible and dynamic, and the gift of being able to effectively communicate with all those involved.


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