Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Mediation Improves Chance for Accord

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Mediation Improves Chance for Accord

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

Conflict is a natural part of life, but the best solutions to it are rarely those achieved by "throwing a grenade down the other guy's shorts" as often happens when the matter is settled in court.

A much preferable method is mediation, which makes use of an impartial third party who helps both sides reach a mutually agreed-upon solution.

Sylvia Marks-Barnett, an Oklahoma City attorney, discussed the benefits of mediation and arbitration Wednesday at the November meeting of the Oklahoma City Economic Roundtable.

She got involved in mediation in 1990 after seeing the damage that the traditional win-at-all-costs litigation model can reap.

"I am still an aggressive litigator. I still like to roll over the opponent like a Sherman tank."

But she realized that the victories often left the client with court orders that were not practical to the real-life situation.

"They were not related to what was going on in his or her world."

Marks-Barnett said she had seen the children of parents whose divorce she had helped achieve come back years later having panic attacks or wanting to commit suicide because of the continuing conflict between the parents.

"I was aware of a lot of damage strewn along the way."

That was when she became interested in mediation.

"Mediation has been around a long time. The Chinese used it hundreds of years ago as a way to deal with disputes. Labor-management disputes have used it for years. For me it was a major paradigm shift."

She described the traditional model of conflict resolution in which the disputing parties are represented by attorneys who speak to each other and use rules of evidence to present the case before a judge, who makes the final decisions.

"You hear people say, `I want my day in court.' The reality is you don't get that."

Rules about what evidence can be admitted, time constraints and practices which limit or prevent the parties from making statements to the judge mean that the decision may not be based on the information the parties think is most relevant.

Marks-Barnett said the message is transmuted at least twice _ in such vital areas as content, tenor and historical background _ as it passes from the disputing parties through their attorneys to the judge.

The mediation model, however, allows the parties to drive the negotiation process. …

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