The FBA hosted a panel on Monday, moderated by Mag. Judge Arthur Boylan on settlement conferences/mediations, which included Lew Remele, one of Minnesota’s best known lawyers and mediators, Judge Jonathan Lebedoff, former Hennepin County judge and former U.S. Magistrate Judge, and Susan Richard Nelson, U.S. Magistrate Judge and likely future U.S. District Court Judge (D. Minn.).
In other words, the FBA hosted a panel that knows as much or more about settlement conferences and mediations than any three people in the state.
This is a quick list of themes/ideas touched on:
- In our current economic climate, “pleading poverty” is widespread among defendants; such claims can complicate settlement negotiations. Judge Nelson recently required both sides in a settlement conference to come to the conference with bankruptcy counsel;
- In complex cases, Judge Nelson has asked each side to come to chambers separately, in advance of the settlement conference, for preliminary meetings to help the Court get its arms around the issues, main concerns, etc.;
- “It’s not about the money” and “I don’t want to bid against myself” are mantras that are invoked in just about every mediation;
- A critical emphasis: the decision-makers must be physically present — not deputized emissaries of decision-makers;
- When widely disparate damages analyses are a barrier to settlement, consider a summary jury trial where both sides can “pitch” their cases and possibly reach a shared understanding of likely outcomes;
- Non-monetary issues — pain, hurt, pride — are difficult to measure but are no less real than cold hard cash and counsel and the Court will confront barriers to settlement if they ignore these issues.
Finally, the panel addressed the question of how one can become a mediator and the answer, of course, echoes the old joke about someone on a New York City street corner who asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and is answered, “Practice, sir. Practice…”