My goal is to keep you out of court and build your conflict resolution skills, in part because court is a miserable place. Highly-educated, competitive people will often make your case about themselves playing a zealous game of procedure that, unlike basketball, is not fun to watch. You’ll often sit on the bench, confused by the selected plays and wondering how you got there. Didn’t you hire a lawyer to help you resolve your issue, not make it more complicated?
I’ve been in your shoes. Although I had a compassionate and skilled attorney in David Deaconson, and I won a default judgment against my former employer, those four years were among the most stressful of my life. I lost my job–and my closest friend in the small town where I moved, because he became part of the evidence and the strategy of both legal teams.
I learned Civil Procedure (which is not very civil) in the courtroom and classroom my first year of law school, while also working three jobs to support myself. Life didn’t pause for my lawsuit, and it won’t for yours, either. Loved ones will still get sick. You might, too. (In a course I taught for ProLawCLE, I discuss your 80% chance of getting sick during litigation, due to your stress score.)
At the end of it all, you might be awarded a judgment that you can never collect. That’s what happened to me, when the owners of my former employer fled the country. The business closed, and the community lost what could have been a great partner. My colleagues lost their jobs, too. But these were not the results I wanted. If my former employer had appeared for the mediation (a service I now provide), the owners might have learned this. But that is a discussion for another post. My focus now is on preventing you from being on either side of the courtroom, because they are both awful places. You can (usually) avoid finding yourself there by:
- Being a good manager of people and conflict. There will always be conflict; it’s a natural part of living. Instead of trying to fool yourself into believing you can avoid all conflict, learn to resolve it skillfully.
- Accepting your needs and asking for help. No one has all of the answers to everything. We will all have jobs that require more or different knowledge and skill than we have. Laws and circumstances will change. Take the shortcut and call someone who knows more about an issue. (You’ll still know plenty about other topics, and you’ll learn about another.)
- Taking responsibility early. You are going to make mistakes, and they will often take more than apology to fix. Own what happened, repair what you can (even if you have to pay in some way), and create an action plan to minimize the likelihood of repeat error.
Most people are forgiving when they can see your humanity and a genuine commitment to being and doing better. We know no one is perfect, and we are relieved when we don’t have to pretend to be. We expect to be acknowledged as equal–at the very least–on a human scale. When that doesn’t occur, we will fight for the acknowledgment in court.
For more ways to build powerful relationships that are unlikely to lead to court action:
- Take the Next Step: You Have to Create the Partnership, Too (Blog Post)
- Using Your Third Ear to Uncover Implicit Biases (Blog Post)
- What Do I Tell Employees After a Co-Worker is Terminated? (Blog Post)
Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a New York City attorney and mediator who focuses on keeping people out of court and building their conflict resolution skills, especially in business and employment disputes. Her holistic, integrative approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a crime victim, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, and United Nations representative. She is a 2001 graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM). She is also creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master, and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards), and Urban Rebound NY/Count Me In (Finalist, 2013 Pitch Competition).