Thinking about "Collaborative Practices" for Mediators

This week I've been working with Marshall Yoder to prepare for a workshop where we will share our experience with mediators throughout the region.  The conference is scheduled for October 9, 2018, in Front Royal, Virginia. Front Royal is a wonderful town to visit in October, the location of the start of the Skyline Drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Read More

What's the Difference Between Litigation and a Long Train Ride?

Last week, my daughter, my mother and I took a train ride together. Years ago, my mother added the ride from Toronto to Vancouver to her "bucket list."  After finding a great sale for winter trips, we planned the trip and departed on  January 29, 2018.  Little did I know that I was about to learn a little bit more about what it might feel like to be a litigant in the American legal system.

A friend and fellow mediator, Jeff Molenda, often quotes John R. Van Winkle's book, "Mediation:  A Path Back for the Lost Lawyer."   In the first section of his book, "The Litigation Train," Van Winkle claims that at the end of the twentieth century in the United States our litigation system is broken and has to come resemble a long, expensive train ride.  

Read More


January is a popular month to file for divorce.  Why?  For many people, the new year is a time that they reevaluate their lives and decide to make changes.  Perhaps they have waited or tried to make a marriage work for some time and the new year seems like a good opportunity to go ahead and pursue divorce.  Others may want to wait until after Christmas to plan for their a divorce. Some people postpone divorce into the new year for economic or tax reasons.  Whatever the basis, if you have decided to divorce in 2017, should you file?

Read More


Best Arbitrators & Mediators in Washington

I’ve often found it difficult to locate folks to help me with a problem—whether I’m looking for someone to help with a home repair, a new veterinarian or accountant. While I often use websites like to evaluate reviews for vacation planning, when I’m looking for someone to have a more significant and longer-term relationship with, those reviews can seem insufficient. 

Several websites have developed to try to address this need, but many, operate on a very simple platform, with no vetting or evaluation of credentials.  They post any review that is submitted.   Some websites, such as,  provide more valuable and detailed information to help the consumer by evaluating some of the credentials, including publications, education, and awards.  

A new group, headquartered in Seattle, is working to create a directory professions and services that include objective evaluations and recommendations. uses a complicated set of algorithms to review professionals and then individually evaluates each company on five criteria: reputation, credibility, experience, availability, and professionalism. While I’ve always enjoyed my 5-star rating on AVVO, my recent selection by as one of the top mediators in the Washington D.C. area makes me very proud of the work I’ve done over the last ten years to build a firm that offers a wide variety of non-adversarial processes to resolve conflicts. Joining other mediators such as attorney Nancy Lesser with Pax ADR L.L.C. and David Goldberg with Family Mediation Services, Inc., places me in good company with other qualified mediators. 

 The criteria that employs can help someone looking for mediation services to evaluate mediators.   One of the criteria they use is “credibility, defined as building customer confidence with licensing, industry accreditations, and awards.” I enjoy my direct client contact, such as working with crime and accident victims or working with litigants in mediation.  I’ve had the opportunity to present my research at many conferences. I’ve also published several law review articles and had the opportunity to conduct workshops throughout the United States in the areas of mediation and restorative justice.  Some of my devotion to the work stemmed the early part of my career when the West Virginia State Bar awarded me a certificate of merit for my work with children.

Last week I participated in a webinar with the Zehr Institute, on one of my favorite topics:  restorative lawyering.

Last week I participated in a webinar with the Zehr Institute, on one of my favorite topics:  restorative lawyering.

Another criteria cited by is experience.  They define it as “Masters of their craft, based on years of practical experience and education.”  I’ve worked very hard to acquire the experience and knowledge that I bring to my work. First of all, I am a lawyer with a JD and a mediator who has an MA in conflict resolution. That education distinguishes me from many mediators in the United States. Many mediators in the area do not have a law degree and have not had over 30 years practicing law. While you don't necessarily need a lawyer to be your mediator, in cases where there are legal questions or when the conflict is framed in the legal process, a lawyer is often best suited to be able to get to the heart of the matter. 

Some lawyers are lawyers first and then become mediators.  I followed that path.  However, most lawyers take courses that are 20 or 40 hours long, in total, to become mediators. They are often very heavy handed in how they mediate and may tend to be evaluative and settlement focused. Since I also went back to school after being a lawyer for 20 years and earned a master's degree in conflict resolution.  That required two years of full-time course work and practical study acquire the degree.  I learned new skills such as both transformative mediation and facilitative mediation. I also studied a variety of methods of negotiation.  Of course, I also took many courses in restorative justice.  All of this advanced education has helped me become both a better legal advocate and mediator. also looked at factors such as availability, reputation, and professionalism in providing the ranking.  I am pleased to bring all of these factors to every case that our office accepts.  I look forward to continuing to learn more and improve the services that we provide to our legal and mediation clients.


Over the past few months on this blog, I’ve covered many of the issues that we consider in mediation when a couple is planning to file for divorce.  My posts in this series have examined everything from how to divide marital property, how to calculate child support, and how to make schedules for holidays for the children.  Along with resources such as the free forms from the West Virginia Supreme Court, these posts may help you decide whether or not you want to retain a lawyer, reach an agreement before you select a lawyer or file for divorce, or if you want to consider collaborative law.

Read More


The final session of the Virginia Mediation Network spring series is open for registration.  In the session  participants will be introduced in how to construct a mediation process that is trauma-sensitive and trauma informed.  This webinar will focus how members may come into mediation with experiences of trauma, how mediators are affected by secondary trauma, and how the court system can be traumatic and thereby impact some participants in mediation.  While the speakers will address the impact on children, they will also provide a broad overview of the topic of trauma and mediation. The speakers will include Jamie E. Austin, the Regional Director for Pathways in Culpepper, Virginia and Shannon Sneary, a mediator with the Fairfield Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Due to the nature of the webinar, pre-registration is required no later than May 1!  (The cost is only $10.00 for VMN members!)  You may register by visiting the VMN website.

Read More


When you have a dispute with someone that lands you in court, chances are sooner or later you will attend mediation.  In many states, such as West Virginia, mediation is required in all circuit court civil cases, and in most custody cases.  If the parties have not voluntarily participated in mediation, the courts usually order them to mediation.  The same general rules apply in Virginia and the District of Columbia.  You don't have to wait for a court to order you to attend mediation.  You can select your own mediator and discover the benefits of early mediation.

Read More


The Virginia Mediation Network is planning a series of spring mini-conferences that focus on the issues involving children and mediation.  The spring series will include both a two hour regional meeting and two one hour webinars.  The regional meetings will be held in many locations including Virginia Beach, Richmond, Winchester, Leesburg, Warrenton, Fairfax and Roanoke.

Read More