Attorney Leaves Retirement for Dispute Mediation

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

After finding out that retirement wasn't for him, attorney Jeff Wheatley has found a niche practice that suits his temperament. He's one of the few lawyers in Oklahoma City to specialize in dispute mediation.

Mediation, the art of bringing together two potential litigants and helping them talk themselves into an agreement, is being viewed by many attorneys and judges as an efficient and cost-effective alternative to court action.

"Through mediation, we are able to help both sides come to an agreement usually a lot faster and cheaper than if they filed lawsuits," Wheatley said. "As an example, I recently mediated a case in a couple of days, a case which was for slightly over $10,000 and had been dragging out for five or six years. Can you imagine having a small case like this hanging over your head for that long?"

Wheatley started his practice under the name of Resolve Inc., 6051 N. Brookline Ave., after he failed as a retired attorney.

"I tried sitting around doing nothing, but I just couldn't handle it," he said. "I decided to go back into law, but I didn't want to start again from scratch building a practice like I had to when I first started.

"Since I have so much experience in mediation and this is something which doesn't take a lot of my time, I felt it was something that was worthwhile, that would help the people of Oklahoma and would suit me."

Wheatley, a 1956 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, retired to Oklahoma a couple of years ago after selling his 22-year-old California law practice to attorneys who were working in his office.

"I had built up a reputation and had six lawyers working for me and I just didn't want to go to all the work of trying to build something like that again," he said.

After graduating Cum Laude from Pepperdine School of Law in California in 1970, Wheatley opened a criminal, civil and family law practice and later began specializing in business and construction law. He was a member of the Orange County California Bar Association Ethics Committee where he helped mediate fee disputes.

His real experience in mediation began with family law as he worked to help families solve their difficulties.

"I got into the practice of business mediation because I handled a lot of construction companies and in that business there are a lot of disputes," he said. "A lot of times the disputes involved my clients on both sides so I wasn't able to represent either one if they filed a lawsuit.

"So what I did is I encouraged them to sit down with me so I could mediate the dispute and maybe come up with an agreement they both could live with without having to go through the courts. Since both sides were my clients, I felt that I gave fair representation to both.

"One of the reasons mediation appealed to my construction clients is that it saved court costs and the time it takes a case to drag through the courts. Besides that, during mediation the work can continue but if a lawsuit were filed, the work would stop immediately. Both sides wanted that."

Wheatley said he decided to return to Oklahoma after visiting relatives many times over the years and remembering what the state was like.

"After I decided to retire, my wife and I looked at several locations to retire to, including Lake Tahoe," he said. …