ILNews

Mediators' Midwest conference attracts top names

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Indiana Lawyer Focus

The Indiana Association of Mediators is thinking big and reaching beyond the state’s borders.

The association will host a heavy hitter in alternative dispute resolution in a few weeks, staging the Midwest Mediation Conference that will draw professionals from around the region for two days of intensive, interactive training. It’s the second annual conference by that name, but IAM has previously staged similar gatherings under different titles.

Mediators-4-15col.jpg Indiana Association of Mediators President Kim Van Valer, of Greenwood, (right) and past president Mary Hoeller, of Indianapolis, stand outside the venue for the upcoming Midwest Mediation Conference, which offers continuing education credit for attorneys, mediators and social workers.(IL photo/Eric Learned)

“We look nationally when we try to pick a speaker,” said IAM President Kim Van Valer of Van Valer Dispute Resolution in Greenwood. This year, the keynoter is Los Angeles-based mediator Lee Jay Berman, a pioneer in ADR who has handled more than 1,700 disputes and is founder and president of the American Institute of Mediation. Berman also is a co-host of “Talk It Over,” a radio program about dispute resolution.

Berman recently conducted mediation training in Australia, and he said the practice “can take on a local flavor, and can also find different hurdles in gaining acceptance.” 

He said the mediation market has surged in the past 15 years, and that’s presented its own challenges. “We have also had to get smarter about managing the mediation process in front of advocates, insurers and participants who have themselves been through hundreds of mediations.” 

Bringing in varying perspectives has been a hallmark of the group’s past sessions.

“The reason we call it the Midwest Mediation Conference is we send out (invitations) to mediators in surrounding areas,” said Immediate Past President Mary Hoeller, an Indianapolis mediator and attorney in private practice. Hoeller said past conferences have drawn attendees from Chicago, Louisville and as far away as Tennessee. The event also has gained a broad appeal because of the quality of presenters and focus on technique.

“These speakers are generally really, really expen-

sive,” Hoeller said. “For folks in the Midwest, the value for your money is incredible. People wouldn’t be able to afford to fly out there and take a session” from someone of Berman’s caliber. “As a group, we bring them here.”

Van Valer said out-of-state mediators who come to the Indianapolis sessions broaden and enrich the discussions. “Mediation is done in different ways depending on the region and those who are involved and who’s mediating it,” she said. “We get a lot of pretty original ideas.”

The conference typically brings together a few dozen ADR professionals for sessions that focus on technique. The format gives attendees opportunities to try out what they learn in role-playing scenarios. This year’s event offers up to 6.8 hours of continuing legal education credit and up to 12.8 hours of continuing mediator education credit and a host of other educational credit opportunities for attorneys, mediators and social workers.

“It’ll cover the gamut of mediation,” said IAM Treasurer Rick Wacker of Wacker Mediation in Trafalgar, whose practice primarily handles family matters and redress mediation for the United States Postal Service. “It’s designed for someone who’s been mediating awhile. It is an advanced training, and for anyone who’s had some negotiation and mediation experience, I think it will be beneficial.”

Wacker said the conference has had success in past years attracting leaders in ADR including Robert Benjamin of Portland, Ore., and Forrest “Woody” Mosten of Los Angeles.

How-to tips are valuable since the art of mediation deals with disputes in which parties usually are at the table voluntarily. “Neutrals” must keep their skills sharp and techniques fresh to be effective, Wacker said. He recalled a session from a past conference in which Benjamin offered one approach that could be effective in his mediation work.

wacker-rick-mug.jpg Wacker

“He used the illustration of a blank check,” Wacker said, asking opposing parties to write the amounts they felt were justified in a particular instance. “When someone is willing to walk away from the table,” Wacker said, “show them the check and ask them, ‘Do you really want to walk away from this?’”

Hoeller said the hands-on nature of the conference is helpful. “You tend to learn more when you’re actively involved in your learning process,” she said.

Wacker and Hoeller agreed that training in past years has helped them focus on when they need to jump into the discussion between parties and when they should back off.

“I’ve learned not to be afraid to have persons face-to-face in the same room, and keep them there as long as you can,” Hoeller said.

Van Valer said she’s learned techniques and models that can do more than resolve problems in family law situations – tools that attempt to transform relationships. But knowing when to use them is important. It helps to have parties who are interested in learning ways they can resolve problems themselves. She said a trend in mediation has been involving mental health professionals in the process where needed.

Along with attorneys, caseworkers also may benefit from the upcoming conference.

Mark Fairchild is executive director of the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, which has had a partnership with IAM for years. “Lawyers and social workers are both prime groups to get training for the mediation process,” he said.

Mediation is becoming a first option in family law situations for a host of reasons. “What we’re seeing more commonly are families that are looking for something that doesn’t go through some kind of formal process,” Fairchild said. He said many families perceive mediation as a process that promotes unity, and they are apprehensive about participating in other legal processes, such as filing suit in court, that could be divisive.

He said the economy also has been a factor in the rise of mediation because many families can’t afford matters that might otherwise take time and expense in a more formal process. For those who turn to ADR, Fairchild said, the mindset typically is, “If we can sit down and be civil with one another, maybe we can work this out.”•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

ADVERTISEMENT