MAKING SPACE FOR MEDIATION...

In 2000, Attorney Nancy Dalby and I moved into our office in Charles Town office, when we both went into the private practice of law.  Our families and careers have experienced many changes in this time.   The children have graduated from school. We opened a second office in Inwood, that later moved to Martinsburg and I opened the DC office.  However, during this time our Charles Town office has not undergone many changes. Last spring we decided that the office needed some updating.  Not only was it necessary for it to be cleaned up and to have a more contemporary look, but also the office needed to better accommodate the work we do now.  

My practice has moved from being entirely litigation focused to being focused on mediation and collaborative law.  As such, the space no longer needs to be a paper factory, capable of producing pages of discovery or a mini-courtroom to stage depositions. Rather, the space needs to be a place where I can meet with my clients and to form a collaborative relationship with them, as partners in their own case.  I want to create a space where I can work with opposing parties and their counsel in collaborative cases.  With my increased work in mediation, the new office needs to calm and secure—a place where our clients can make good decisions.  Rather than creating the “flight or fight” response that we often experience in courthouses or traditional law offices, I want our office to allow us to calmly and peacefully communicate-- to facilitate creative and open minded resolutions to cases.

What does this mean in terms of paint chips and shopping lists?  I’m relying in part on the work of   Deanna Van Buren at Forum Design Studio.  I had the pleasure of addressing this topic with her at a workshop with the Virginia Mediation Network last fall.  She encourages us to reform our conflict resolution spaces to be filled with light, texture and nature.  An architect, Deanna suggests that we may want to consider some of the reforms that we’ve seen in health care environments that are being reshaped to increase patients’ well being. 

The reception area "before."  

The reception area "before."  

Where do we start?  By getting rid of what we don’t need.   I no longer need file cabinets, bulky desks, photocopiers and so on.  Once those items are out of the way, we’ll remove the old worn out carpet, rework the floors and bring in some bright, nicely textured area rugs.  To keep us moving, we’ve been inspired by some great workspaces that we’ve pinned.

Okay-let’s get to work!  Today’s photo is definitely a “BEFORE.”  I hope you’ll join me to see how things are going to shape up.