SEEDS OF CHANGE by Margaret Anderson

Legal Specialization Digest

Legal Specialization Digest
Issue 1, 2008
A Publication of the State Bar of California

Thirty years ago, when I was a new attorney, rumblings about something new began in the county where I was practicing. Mediation seemed revolutionary as a process for resolving disputes, partly because it wasn't clear that mediation clients would have legal advice and information apart from what they learned from the mediator. There were also concerns voiced by experienced family lawyers that differences in financial sophistication and power imbalances between divorcing spouses would prevent one of the spouses from having adequate protection.

As time passed, more attorneys entered into the continuing process of training as mediators and developed their skills and competence in this type of work. Those early mediators who failed to develop excellent mediation skills dropped by the wayside as legal consumers became more sophisticated. Before long, this process moved beyond family law and over time, has become an accepted settlement process even in commercial, civil, estates and trusts, and other types of disputes.

Alternate dispute resolution is an area of study included in the curriculum of most, if not all, law schools. An entire industry has grown around mediation, led by large numbers of retired judges and other senior attorneys. The courts have brought varying forms of mediation into not only child custody disputes, but also its civil division settlement processes.

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