I have expertise in a variety of methods of dispute resolution. Whatever the dispute resolution mechanism being employed, I strive to ensure that the parties are as empowered as possible, clearly understand the process, and have the opportunity to fully participate.
Mediation. I pride myself on explaining the mediation process clearly and emphasizing to parties the value of reaching a self-determined outcome to a dispute. During a mediation, the parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, seek to resolve an issue that has brought them into conflict. Mediation is well suited to help resolve a variety of disputes including employment issues, property disagreements, and discrimination claims. As a mediator, my job is to facilitate the conversation, without choosing sides, and help parties carefully evaluate all potential options for resolution. Ideally, the parties reach a win-win resolution, although mediation usually involves some compromise. Parties often participate in mediation to avoid the costs and stresses of litigation. Furthermore, because parties maintain control over the outcome in a mediation, many people find they are more content with a mediated agreement than they are with a court or agency-mandated resolution. Having served as a hearing officer and arbitrator for many years, I am well aware that judges, arbitrators, and administrative hearing officers, when strictly bound in a decision by legal precedents, do not have the flexibility or ability to be creative that parties to a mediation can when fashioning their own outcome. With limited exceptions, mediation is a confidential process, which allows parties to share ideas without concern that the information might be misunderstood if later considered out of context. I seek to make all parties feel empowered in the process and have the opportunity to fully explain their positions. In a mediation, I am committed to helping the parties fully explore all options for settlement, which includes the often difficult task of evaluating pros and cons of various options and comparing them to the potential outcomes of advancing the matter in litigation or arbitration. Some people compare mediation to a long-distance flight, it can be bumpy and uncomfortable at times, but hang in there and the destination will be worth the effort. Beyond the basic 40-hour training, I have taken part in extensive additional mediation training on a variety of subjects, including elder mediation, intercultural comptence, and concepts of negotiation. My recent articles on mediation include:
-If You Want to Revive Civility, Choose Mediation over Litigation. Co-authored with Peter Schroeter, Esq. Maine Town and City (2019).
-Mediation Practice Tips. ADR Issue of Maine Lawyers Review (2018).
-Using Mediation in State Administrative Processes. ADR Issue of Maine Lawyers Review (2015).
-Ask a Mediator: Elder Mediation, Maine Association of Mediators newsletter (2011).
Arbitration. Arbitration is a private decision making process in which an independent third party conducts a hearing and renders a decision in a dispute. Arbitration is an alternative to litigation and generally results in a final and binding decision. Arbitration can usually be conducted more quickly than a court hearing. Arbitration decisions may be appealed to court in only limited circumstances. Arbitrations occur regularly in the context of labor disputes.
Fact Finding. Parties to contract negotiations sometimes need help reaching agreement on terms of a contract. In a fact finding, a panel of decision makers hears the parties' proposals for each contract provision and renders a set of recommendations for the parties' consideration.
Independent Outside Investigation. In an independent outside investigation, an institution or organization hires an outside investigator to conduct an inquiry into whether certain conduct occurred. These occur most often in the employment context when allegations of discrimination or harassment have arisen. The investigator will conduct individual interviews with complainants, respondents, and any witnesses before issuing a report to the employer. The report generally includes factual findings and sometimes includes analysis of whether laws or policies were violated.
Administrative Hearings. Administrative hearings are governed by the Maine Administrative Procedure Act. They are conducted in a variety of government and municipal settings in which parties have a dispute. Licensing decisions, benefit denials, and special education services are examples of areas in which administrative hearings are conducted. In such hearings, an administrative hearing officer (sometimes called an administrative law judge) presides. The administrative officer will regulate the course of the hearing and make rulings on evidence and testimony. In some settings, the administrative hearing officer makes a final decision on the merits of the case. In other settings, the administrative hearing officer makes a recommended decision to an agency decision maker. And in many settings, a governing board makes the final decision after hearing the evidence submitted during the course of the hearing.