Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Attorney Gregg Bertram, who is the founder and CEO of Pacific ADR Consulting, LLC, which is a company that specializes in mediation and arbitration. Although Pacific ADR’s headquarters are in Seattle, the company is now expanding into other areas of country. At PR for People, we’re intrigued by how Gregg and his team of panelists are often able to help parties resolve legal conflicts without having to go to trial or arbitration. So we asked Gregg a few questions about exactly what it means to be ‘True Neutral.’
1. Why did you start your own mediation business?
Over the years, I’ve had lengthy affiliations with other professionals who work in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and I thought I could create a business that was agile and had a high degree of quality. Whether mediators are affiliated with large businesses or they are solo practitioners is not as important as it is to be a true neutral. A good mediator must have the ability to inspire trust from all the parties, and to follow through on that trust. We have a small but dedicated panel who are committed to ADR as a preferred way to settle disputes.
2. What are the benefits of mediation?
Mediation brings extraordinary benefit to all parties in a dispute because it requires their active participation. When the parties have control over the process, the outcome is a more cathartic experience, than if they had resorted to litigation and passively suffered due to the decisions made by lawyers, juries and judges. Mediation allows the parties involved to take ownership of the dispute. In the vast majority of cases, when the dispute is resolved through mediation, there is less harm done to the parties.
"Our panel members are passionate about being true neutral and inspire trust from all of the parties in a dispute.”
3. How is Pacific ADR Consulting different from other ADR businesses?
The small size of our panel, coupled with their collective range and depth of experience, along with their willingness to share in both an individual and team approach, brings tremendous value to our clientele. We spend a lot of time evaluating and selecting our panelists. While the quality of our panelists’ experience and practice areas are important, one of the most notable qualities about our panelists is that they share a strong commitment to consistently resolve disputes through mediation.
4. What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?
Mediation is a private negotiation with the help of a third impartial party (the mediator) who is committed to achieving the settlement of the dispute. In mediation, the parties alone decide how the dispute will be resolved.
Arbitration is, in essence, a private trial, where one or three arbitrators serve in the role of judge and jury. While arbitration is a private process, where its decisions are usually binding, it differs from the civil trial process because there is no appeal from an arbitration award. All of the decision-making authority rests with the arbitrator.
Arbitrators are not necessarily neutral. In arbitrations where the panel is composed of three members, each party appoints an arbitrator. Each arbitrator is beholding to the party that appointed them. The 3rd arbitrator is intended to be neutral. In cases where there is a single arbitrator, there is the hope, but no guarantee, that the arbitrator would be competent and impartial.
5. Why should parties engage in ADR instead of litigation?
Aside from the parties having the advantage of a private mediation forum, as well as the benefit of saving time and money, mediations can be scheduled much sooner than trial or arbitration dates. If time is an important factor, then mediation offers a speedy resolution of conflict. With mediation, it is also possible to create remedies that are innovative and not available in litigation or arbitration. The preservation of business or personal relationships has a better chance of succeeding through mediation than it would by engaging in litigation or arbitration.
6. What types of disputes can be mediated?
Any type of civil dispute can be mediated. I can’t think of any areas of the law that would not lend themselves to mediation. Mediation works best when it is consensual. Some jurisdictions require mediation of all civil cases or certain kinds of civil cases. Business issues that can be mediated encompass Intellectual Property, contract disputes, employment disputes, and product liability. Other types of cases include real estate, personal injury and medical malpractice. Other professional negligence, including legal and accounting malpractice cases, can also be mediated. These are a few areas but there are many more.
7. What advice can you offer to business people who are searching for the right mediator?
I wouldn’t recommend going on the internet! In legal communities, good mediators are well known. Mediation has been popular for several decades and is a reputation-based business. Asking your attorney for recommendations is a good start. The mediator’s subject mater expertise might be important, particularly when dealing with more specialized areas such as patents or technology. Other qualities to look for include the mediator’s communication style and professional demeanor. Actual mediation sessions can vary greatly in length, so selecting a mediator who has the endurance to go the distance is important.
8. When choosing a mediator, should budget be a factor?
Lawsuits are very expensive. The cost of litigation isn’t necessarily proportional to the amount in controversy. Comparatively, the cost of mediation is just a small fraction of the total cost of litigation. In fact, the cost of hiring a mediator can be less than what it costs to hire a single expert witness during litigation.
Benefits of Mediation
Conflict will always be with us—that’s a fact of life. When you’re embroiled in conflict, it’s easy to be consumed by emotion that’s disproportionate to the actual dispute. Mediation helps people, businesses, organizations and governmental entities to resolve conflict. Emotions almost always cloud judgment. One of the challenges of the mediator is to reduce the emotional volatility of the parties so everyone stays on the path to resolution. Parties who agree to mediation are able to take ownership of the conflict and are able to gain greater peace of mind.
“The right mediator will candidly assess the merits of the case, its strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with an independent objective evaluation, so you can make a more informed settlement decision.”
There are many benefits of mediation including:
- The active participation of both parties gives them control over the outcome
- Both parties retain responsibility for the outcome
- Mediation has the potential of avoiding the time and expense that is associated with trial and arbitration
- Privacy is really important. Trials are public. Mediations are private
- Greater value is created for the parties when compared to other options such as trials and arbitration
- Mediation saves time, money and minimizes emotional distress
What are the key attributes of a good mediator?
The right mediator will candidly assess the merits of the case, its strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with an independent objective evaluation, so you can make a more informed settlement decision.
Here is a checklist of the essential qualities of a good mediator:
- Ability to inspire trust from all parties to be a true neutral
- Expertise can be helpful, particularly with specialized fields
- Ability to communicate effectively to a wide range of people
- Ability to listen well
- Ability to read and absorb a get deal of material on short notice.
- Ability to thoroughly prepare.
- Stamina to endure