February was another fantastic month for SCMA!
On February 20th, Mark, Baer, Len Levy and Terra Russell Slavin presented their compelling workshop “Equal Rights for the LGBT Community: The Last Frontier of the Civil Rights Movement,” followed by an equally important workshop “Critical Race Theory: Introduction to the Genre, Intellectual Influences and Emerging Issues,” with Kim Clark, Lucy Jewel and Andrea Smith. My thanks to each of the panelists, who graciously gave up their Saturday morning in order to give 30 of us a second opportunity to attend these two highly praised workshops from last year’s Annual Conference!
Four days later, 24 mediators filled the large conference room at the Conflict Solutions Center (CSC) in Santa Barbara for the inaugural meeting of the Santa Barbara Professional Development Group. My thanks to Sayre McNeil, Cindy Brokaw and Harriet Causin for their amazing efforts to promote the group, and to Lizzie Rodriguez, of CSC, for offering to host the meeting!
And the month of March promises to be equally exciting!
On March 2nd, March 7th and March 16th, respectively, the Westside, Pasadena and San Fernando Valley Professional Development Groups will be holding their meetings.
On March 19th, SCMA will be hosting a Town Hall to discuss Mediator Certification and Mediation Confidentiality. First, Jack Goetz and Barbara Brown will provide an update concerning the work and recommendations of their Ad Hoc Committee on Mediator Certification, after which Lee Blackman and Phyllis Pollack will moderate a discussion concerning potential changes to the Evidence Code with respect to mediation confidentiality that are being considered by the California Law Review Commission. This is one event you won’t want to miss!
Mediation Awareness Week begins on March 28th, and President-Elect Jason Harper will be representing SCMA and addressing the Los Angeles City Council on March 30th, when the Council issues its annual Mediation Awareness Week proclamation.
Looking ahead, SCMA’s Second Annual Past President’s Breakfast is coming up on April 16th, and we are beginning to work on SCMA’s Annual Employment Institute and other programing for this spring and summer.
Finally, I am excited to announce that Forest Whitaker — recipient of the 2015 Cloke-Millen Peacemaker of the Year Award — has confirmed he will be able to attend SCMA’s Summer Mixer on August 10, 2016 to formally receive the award. More details to follow!
Looking forward to seeing all of you at the Town Hall on March 19th!
Floyd Siegal, President
Southern California Mediation Association
2016 is off to a rousing start!
The next few months promise to be equally exciting. On February 20th, SCMA will be repeating two other hugely popular workshops from the Annual Conference: “Equal Rights for the LGBT Community” and “Critical Race Theory;” on February 24th, the Santa Barbara/Ventura Professional Development Group will be holding its first meeting of the year; and on March 19th, SCMA will host an important Town Hall to discuss two hot-button topics: Mediator Certification and Mediation Confidentiality.
I am fortunate to have an incredible Board of Directors working along side me this year to make all of this possible. President-Elect Jason Harper will oversee programming and co-chair the Annual Conference with Terri Lubaroff. Stephanie Maloney has offered to once again serve as SCMA’s Treasurer. Jack Goetz has volunteered to serve as this year’s Secretary and will also co-chair the Membership Committee with Wendy Forrester. Together, Wendy and Jack have already implemented several ideas guaranteed to increase, and enhance the value of, membership in SCMA. Lee Blackman and Victoria Gray co-chair the Communications Committee, and their influence has already resulted in several improvements to the website. Mark Lewis has answered the call to serve as Coordinator of Professional Development Groups and has jumped in with unmatched enthusiasm, which, judging from the turnout at last month’s meetings and the number of new groups in the works, is clearly contagious! David Levaton once again serves as chair of SCMA’s popular and successful Mentorship program and Bill Molfetta will serve as chair of SCMA’s vital Outreach Committee. Orange County’s Terri Breer will be serving on the Annual Conference Committee and will also be actively involved in efforts to grow the Orange County Professional Development Group, while San Diego’s Dale Ordas and Hass Sadeghi will be point persons for the San Diego Professional Development Group. Past- President Robyn Weinstein, though 2500 miles away, remains my trusted mentor and adviser, and Executive Director Anne Sawyer is the person who somehow keeps all the balls in the air!
Before I bring my first President’s Message to a close, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to encourage those of you who have never attended a Professional Development Group meeting to consider doing so in the coming months. It may well be the most significant benefit of membership in SCMA. The opportunity to get together every month or two with colleagues — veterans and newcomers alike — in the comfort of someone’s conference room or living room, to discuss the challenges we face as professional mediators, and the challenges that face our profession, is invaluable. If there is a Professional Development Group that meets near you, you will be welcomed with open arms. And if the closest Professional Development Group is too far away, reach out to Mark Lewis, email@example.com, and he will be happy to help you get one started!
I would also be remiss if I did not trumpet the virtue and value of becoming a Sustaining Member in SCMA. For those of you who are financially able to do so, the virtue of becoming a Sustaining Member is that you will lend greater financial support to SCMA, enabling us to continue presenting quality programs for little or no cost. And the value of becoming a Sustaining Member is that you will be invited to attend every SCMA program — including the Annual Conference — at no additional cost. Finally, one of my commitments this year is to be accessible to each and every member of SCMA.
I invite you to reach out to me at any time — firstname.lastname@example.org / 818-262-5830 — to let me know how we’re doing, what we’re doing right and what we could be doing better.
I hope to see all of you at the Town Hall on March 19th, if not sooner!
Dear Members of the Southern California Mediation Association:
I would like to begin this letter by expressing my gratitude to the members of the SCMA for the great privilege to serve as your president. I am incredibly proud to be a member of this organization – a group that is full of forward-thinking, mindful, and impassioned people.
A technique often emphasized in basic mediation training is to make sure that as the mediator, you are not standing in the way of resolution. If the parties are able to communicate with one another directly, it is an important skill set to know when to step aside. As president of the organization, I found that this skill was a useful one. We have so many brilliant and skilled members that it was often left to me to provide a framework of support – and let the ideas of our members flourish.
One of the greatest achievements of this year is the revitalization of the SCMA Professional Development Groups (PDGs). Thanks to the efforts of Wendy Forrester, Jason Harper, John Irwin, Mark Lewis, Susie North, Dale Ordas, and Floyd Siegal, the SCMA now has PDGs in West Los Angeles, Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley, the San Fernando Valley, Orange County, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. These groups meet regularly, host a wide range of guest speakers, and discuss various issues and challenges related to the practice of mediation. (We are still looking for someone to host a group in Riverside County, so if you’d like to host that group, please let me know!)
Another exciting initiative was the SCMA programming for Mediation Awareness Week. In an effort to raise awareness about our field, the SCMA partnered with the Beverly Hills Bar Association and the International Academy of Mediators to host a Mediation Awareness Week Kickoff Celebration which was attended by city councilmember Paul Koretz and leaders of various bar associations. We also developed a Mediation Awareness Week calendar, created a series of Mediation Awareness Week e-blasts, and conducted an MCLE program entitled, The Anatomy of a Mediation: Issues Before, During, and After Mediation.
Throughout the year, the SCMA hosted several well-attended MCLE programs, including Dollar$ and $ense: Growing Your Practice Through Smart Marketing; Perspectives on Cuba with Ken Cloke; Mediation Confidentiality: Can We Still Rely On It?; Solving Ethical Pickles in Family Law; The SCMA Employment Mediation Institute; Peer Mediation: Bringing Conflict Resolution to Schools; and Secrets of Successful Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.
In addition to substantive programs, the SCMA worked hard to create opportunities for our members to network and forge strong ties with one another. This year the SCMA hosted our annual Summer Networking Mixer in Los Angeles, as well as mixers in Orange County, Santa Barbara, and San Diego and the first annual SCMA Past President’s Breakfast to honor and celebrate the history of our organization.
Another wonderful accomplishment of 2015 is the creation of the SCMA Listserv. The Listserv provides an online forum for our members to connect with one another, solicit advice on issues relating to their mediation practices, provide and request referrals, promote various mediation-related events and trainings, share articles and resources, and post career opportunities. Our communications committee, led by Victoria Gray, also enhanced the SCMA Job Opportunities page, which permits local ADR organizations to post available jobs in conflict resolution.
I am also blown away by the efforts of Maria Simpson and the board of directors of the SCMA Education Foundation who have run a successful fundraising campaign, developed incredible programming for National Conflict Resolution Day, and have made tremendous strides on behalf of the Foundation over the course of the year.
The capstone of this year is our annual conference, which was planned and organized by conference chair Hass Sadeghi. This year’s conference was designed to address the broader ways in which we as peacemakers can contribute to and participate in the many conflicts facing society. As part of the conference, we have the great privilege to honor Charles Chang, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Dispute Resolution Center, as the recipient of our L. Randolph Lowry award and Forrest Whitaker, CEO and Founder of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative, as our Cloke-Millen Peacemaker of the Year.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of my friends, the members of the SCMA Board of Directors, all of whom have dedicated countless hours to promoting the organization and dreaming up these incredible endeavors. And thank you to our executive director, Anne Sawyer, whose determination and enthusiasm for her work shines through each and every day.
Floyd Siegal, my president-elect, I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring – you are a powerhouse, and you have one heck of a team behind you.
As summer approaches, things at the SCMA have not slowed down. We have some wonderful programs coming up in the month of June.
On June 18, 2015, the SCMA is hosting an MCLE program entitled Solving Ethical Pickles in Family Law, which is geared towards those who mediate divorce and family law disputes. This program is designed to help family mediators to recognize and avoid various ethical pitfalls involved in mediating these disputes. Those who attend this program will have the privilege to learn from top family mediators including Terri Breer, Esq., Shazi Rastegar, Esq., Wendy L. Forrester, Esq., Stephanie Maloney, CDFA, and Judith M. Weigle.
Later this month the SCMA is co-hosting the SCMA Employment Institute with the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution on June 30, 2015. The institute begins with a networking dinner followed by two substantive panels. This year we have the great privilege to collaborate with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to present a panel entitled Emotional Intelligence in Employment Mediations. Speakers Harold Coleman, Esq. Senior VP at the AAA and John English, Vice President at the AAA will discuss emotional intelligence in employment mediations and how to identify and overcome barriers to settlement. The second panel entitled, Workplace Investigations: Resolution or Escalation?, is an interactive session discussing recent trends and developments in conducting workplace investigations in the context of conflict resolution. Speakers include Sheila Sparks, Esq., Vice President and Senior Employment Counsel at Warner Brothers and Julie Yanow, Esq., Workplace Investigator at EquiLaw, and Steven W. Paul, Esq. of Paul Mediation. We are fortunate to have such exceptionally high-level professionals presenting this year, and special thanks are in order to Steve Paul and Stephanie Bell for making this fantastic event happen!
On July 30, 2015, please join us for the Annual SCMA Summer Mixer which will once again take place at the Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills. This event is always a wonderful opportunity for our members to mix and mingle – while enjoying cocktails and delicious hors d’oeuvres in a fabulous setting.
Lastly, be sure to take note of the SCMA Education Foundation’s first-ever Challenge Grant. For the next 60 days the SCMA will match your contributions dollar for dollar up to $1,000 to support the important work of the Foundation. To learn more click HERE.
I look forward to seeing you at one of these wonderful programs – and wish you a wonderful summer!
Southern California Mediation Association
Since the closure of the Los Angeles Superior Court ADR Program, a challenge has arisen for mediators: how to connect with those in need of dispute resolution services? The Los Angeles Superior Court ADR Program served as a way for mediators to connect with potential clients and build their mediation practices. Once the ADR Program closed and the court did away with the requirement that all litigants must attempt mediation, it became increasingly difficult for many conflict resolution professionals to secure steady work.
There is little doubt that the peaceful resolution of conflicts, specifically mediation, is important and necessary work. The high volume of cases handled by the LASC ADR Program indicates the need for mediation services, but with the Program now closed there is a disconnect between those who need the service and those who provide it.
Mediation Awareness Week is an opportunity for mediators and providers to work together to educate the public and the bar about the many quality mediation services available in Southern California. As a hub of the Southern California mediation community, the SCMA, along with various ADR organizations, associations, non-profits, private panels, and educational institutions, is celebrating Mediation Awareness Week by hosting a variety of events – which are listed on our Mediation Awareness Week Calendar.
Our goal during Mediation Awareness Week is to to remind our community leaders, business leaders, the legal community, and the public at large of the important work that peacemakers do. That way, when a conflict does arise, parties know that they can take advantage of the range of exceptional mediation services available in Southern California.
If you are interested in becoming involved in the SCMA and working with us to raise the profile of mediation in Southern California, I encourage you to join an SCMA committee and help us in our efforts to connect those who are in need of mediation services with quality providers.
Robyn Weinstein is President of the Southern California Mediation Association and a fellow and adjunct professor for the Kukin Program for Conflict Resolution at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
It is truly an honor to become the next president of the Southern California Mediation Association, an organization which I credit for introducing me to the myriad of unique dispute resolution opportunities available in Southern California. As a result of my membership in this organization, I have obtained teaching opportunities, employment, training, and of course, many chances to give back by volunteering my conflict resolution services to the Southern California community.
I write about my own experience as a member of this organization because one of the most common frustrations I hear from my colleagues and fellow mediators is that it often feels impossible to find paid work. If you feel this way, I can assure you that you are not alone. In fact, Alyson Carrel of the Center on Negotiation and Mediation at Northwestern Law School has created a wonderful resource in her blog, entitled ADR as First Career, which is dedicated to inspiring those who feel that making a go of a career in dispute resolution is just not possible.
Throughout the past year, the Board and committees of the SCMA, led by the tireless Joe Markowitz, have taken on several initiatives with the goal of increasing the visibility of our profession and helping our members to find paid opportunities. These initiatives include the Voluntary Mediator Certification Initiative, which aims to enhance the credibility and accountability of the profession, and the Outreach Committee, which aims to build relationships and raise awareness about the SCMA with the various consumers of mediation in Southern California. Over the next year, I plan to continue to support these efforts as we work to connect a community of skilled, passionate and dedicated mediation professionals to those in need of their services.
The SCMA Communications Committee, led by Victoria Grey, has rebuilt the SCMA website, and manages the newly updated Select-A-Mediator Directory. The SCMA also offers a mentorship program, led by Wendy Kramer, which provides new mediators with a rare chance to observe private mediation sessions led by successful commercial mediators. We are also fortunate to have a wonderful resource in our industrious executive director, Anne Sawyer, who is available to work with our board, committees, and members to support and execute our many new and exciting initiatives.
I hope you will join us for the study groups, professional development series, institutes, conferences, committee meetings, and social events we will be having over the next year. Be sure to check our website frequently for updates, and to look at our community calendar which lists mediation-related opportunities throughout Southern California.
It is through participation in the SCMA community that our members see the greatest rewards. Please join me and the SCMA board of directors as we continue to promote excellence in the practice of mediation, and work to raise community awareness of mediation through education, dialogue, and outreach.
Although I’m looking forward to joining the distinguished ranks of SCMA’s past presidents, I am going to miss the exciting job of leading this organization. It involved more travel that I expected, including an unprecedented four trips to San Diego to support programs we put on there. (Thank you, Hass Sadeghi.) And a few trips to Orange County, where our ace team (Therese Gray, Norma Aronne, Sam Konugres, and Rosemarie McElhaney), organized two programs under the SCMA banner, as well as helping put on the OC Mediation Conference in March.
I had to do plenty of driving within Los Angeles as well, to attend SCMA’s employment program, our second annual summer mixer, and several outreach programs with local bar associations. SCMA also put on several business development programs and programs dealing with bias, and a peer mediation program. Not to mention last November’s highly successful fall conference in Malibu entitled “Crisis and Opportunity,” in which we honored Seeds of Peace, the Los Angeles Police Department and Professor Marco Turk. (Thanks to Robyn Weinstein, Jason Harper, Shazi Rastegar, and many others who organized a full slate of programs this year. Also thanks to Maurice Attie, who helped develop a new system for choosing the panels for this year’s conference.) I also enjoyed serving as an SCMA ambassador on side trips to Miami for the ABA Dispute Resolution Conference, as well as to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and to Stanford University to learn more about online dispute resolution.
This year we expanded SCMA’s certification initiative to start forming a consortium of organizations that will lead the drive to develop and administer a meaningful credential for California mediators. (Barbara Brown and Jack Goetz have been doing tremendous work spearheading this effort for SCMA.)
We have seen tremendous growth and interest in expanding SCMA’s outreach programs, from teaming up with local bar associations to provide assistance to attorneys and litigants in navigating the private market for mediators, to developing new programs and materials that we plan to take to community organizations, business groups and the broader public. (Thanks to Floyd Siegal for leading this effort.) We continue to improve and promote the SCMA Select a Mediator directory, an important benefit to members and a useful tool for the public. And the SCMA Education Foundation, led by Maria Simpson, has re-defined its role this year to promote mediation among the public.
In conjunction with SCMA’s statewide certification initiative, and our expansion of programming and outreach activities to all parts of Southern California, we have formed a committee to study the re-structuring and potential re-branding of the organization to help us better serve a wider region, potentially the entire state. (Thanks to Mark Ameli for taking the lead on this important issue.)
I don’t want to omit mention of SCMA local study groups, as well as the very successful mentor program which my predecessor Wendy Kramer initiated and has graciously agreed to continue leading for another year. And I want to recognize some other behind-the-scenes work that keeps SCMA going, such as Stephanie Maloney’s able assistance with keeping the books, and Wendy Forrester’s involvement with the membership committee.
SCMA’s advocacy efforts have included continued dialogue with the courts to expand opportunities for mediators, and monitoring issues of concern to our members. Recently SCMA filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to help protect mediation confidentiality. (Thanks to Mike Young, Jill Switzer and Phyllis Pollack for assisting me with that project.)
While doing all of that, we also entirely re-vamped and updated the SCMA website, to make it easier to list events and disseminate information about all things mediation. (Join me in congratulating Victoria Gray and Anne Sawyer for a fantastic job implementing our new and improved website.)
I hope to see our members get even more involved in 2015 to help SCMA continue to create more opportunities for mediation and mediators!
In Southern California, we face significant geographical challenges. SCMA purports to serve an area stretching perhaps 50,000 square miles, holding more than 20 million people, and comprising as many as eight metropolitan areas, depending on which ones you count. It’s not only the long distances and heavy traffic that can frustrate efforts to bring people together from Santa Barbara County to San Diego and also to Riverside and San Bernardino, it’s also a problem of attitudes and cultures. I’ve heard people who live in the San Fernando Valley say they avoid downtown Los Angeles almost as a matter of principle. People in LA are suspicious of those who reside behind the Orange Curtain, and Orange County residents likewise often distrust their neighbors to the north. LA’s Westsiders don’t understand Eastsiders, and vice versa. People who live inland seem far removed from those on the coast. The court systems in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Santa Barbara confront different challenges and rules from those in other distinct regions. Los Angeles County is so large that it sucks attention away from other areas, but it still comprises only about half of the population we try to represent.
This year, the SCMA board has begun some purposeful discussions about how to better serve this incredibly large and diverse region. Board members are united in a desire to expand the organization’s membership, and attract more members from all of the far-flung reaches of the SoCal region and beyond. To do that, we have to offer programs accessible to people from these different areas, and we have to respond to their varying needs.
Members may not be aware of how much we have already accomplished to expand SCMA’s reach. We have held more programs in Orange County and in San Diego County this year than in previous years, and this year is far from over. We have continued efforts to attract speakers to our fall conference from around the entire country. We have launched an initiative for mediator certification that is intended to be implemented statewide. We are expanding outreach efforts to inform local bar associations and the general public about the availability of mediation services. And we have formed a committee to study structural and branding changes that may be helpful in allowing SCMA to better serve all of Southern California, and perhaps the entire state. Specifically, what is currently up for debate is whether the organization should adopt some form of chapter model to support future growth, and also to what extent we should expand our reach beyond Southern California.
SCMA aims to be recognized as the pre-eminent professional association that supports every working mediator in the region and the state. And also as the go-to resource for anyone interested in learning more about mediation and about putting their mediation skills to use. And in addition as an effective advocacy organization that promotes the use of mediation to resolve all manner of conflict. It’s been challenging but also exciting to lead an organization with such ambitious goals.
I am always interested in hearing from members about ways that SCMA can better serve the needs of Southern California and beyond. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these topics with me or any of our other board members.
I hope visitors to this website are as excited as I am to see all of the changes we have made here. You have probably already noticed the streamlined and updated layout. We hope readers find the look of the home page more appealing, and also find it easier to find the information you are looking for. But look below the surface, because like an iceberg, most of the upgrades to the website are not immediately visible. To give you a better idea of those changes, let me start with a little background, and then give a guided tour.
SCMA’s website upgrade has been a long time in the making. This project started over a year ago, when we invested in new software that helps us better organize our member database. Those changes were designed to accomplish two things: First to provide more fully automated information about membership, thus better enabling us to track membership changes and handle registration for programs. Second to power SCMA’s Select a Mediator directory, created last year in response to the closure of the LA Superior Court’s ADR program. The directory continues to provide a strong platform to assist the public in finding mediators, and to assist members in promoting their services.
Phase II of the website and database upgrade, which we started more than six months ago, amounted to a top-to-bottom revamping of the entire contents of this site, bringing it current with the latest versions of the WordPress platform. In the process, we re-wrote substantially all of the material on the site, cleaned up and brought up to date lots of stale information, created much new content, and added important new features. Browse around the site to get an idea of the extent of these changes. I will highlight a few of these changes here.
Try clicking on our brand-new calendar feature. Users can choose to display events on the calendar in a monthly format, or in a list format. Even more amazingly, this new feature allows organizers of outside events to list them on the SCMA website themselves. By providing this interactive resource to the community, our hope is that SCMA becomes the go-to bulletin board for mediators and anyone else interested in mediation in California. In the past, we have done a pretty good job of promoting programs by bar groups, mediation provider organizations, and educational and training organizations, but it was a time-consuming task, and we didn’t always have all the information we wanted to make available. Now, with the help of other organizations interested in mediation, we can do a better job of informing mediators and the public about available programs put on by SCMA and by others.
Next, take a look at the resources available under the professional development tab. We now host a wealth of information, not only about SCMA’s study groups, mentorship program, fall conference and other activities, but also about degree and certificate programs and job opportunities for mediators. Once again, our aim is to gather all available resources in these areas, so that this website becomes the place to go to find out what’s happening with mediation in the region.
We have also added a “Writer’s Corner” feature to the site, which will allow members and others to publish their thoughts on issues of interest to the mediation community. We hope members will take advantage of this feature, and add lots more content to the site.
On our old site, only the most recent few posts were readily accessible. Lots of information was buried or difficult to find. On the new website, the latest mediation news is still most prominent, but readers will also be able to navigate down to archived material more easily. The site is also organized in such a way as to make all of our resources, such as the Select a Mediator directory, easier to find and use.
The site is designed to be more inviting to members of the public wishing to learn how to use mediation to help resolve their business or family disputes, while at the same time categorizing and displaying information mainly of interest to members. Thus, we hope the new website exemplifies the dual goals of the organization: to promote the use of mediation by the broader community, and to assist members in furthering their professional interests.
None of these dramatic improvements would have been possible without the extraordinary dedication and hard work of the communications committee led by the indefatigable Victoria Gray, the project management skills of executive director Anne Sawyer, and the creativity of SCMA’s new website designer Blake Miller and his team at www.MITOStudios.com. Thanks to all of them for their contributions. I hope members enjoy these changes, and that we can continue to build great things on this new platform.