I can’t emphasize enough how great our Fall Conference was! I’m proud to say it was our biggest and, dare I say, best conference in history and it could not have happened without the help of our board, executive director, volunteers, and members. I would like to acknowledge our 2017 Randolph-Lowry Award recipient, Mary Culbert, and Cloke-Millen Award recipient, William Ury, for their dynamic speeches. They, along with our other conference speakers spoke on a range of topics that resonated with all of us and I thank them for that. From the Friday night kickoff dinner to the Saturday conference, I was amazed at how many people attended and the compliments we have received since the conference. Finally, a special thank you goes to all of our sponsors as well as the L.A. Hotel Downtown for hosting us. We have released the conference evaluation form and would love to hear your thoughts on how this conference was and what we can do to make it even better.
One of the things that was talked about during the conference, as well as the last few weeks, was the news regarding the Los Angeles Superior Court (LASC). On October 4, the LASC released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for civil mediation services. This RFP had a number of requirements for mediation providers, but the notable requirements were that the provider has a roster of mediators that have at least 10 years of active California State Bar membership and 40 hours of mediation training.
As SCMA President, I was very disappointed to see the RFP the LASC delivered. The requirements set by the LASC requiring 10 years of active State Bar membership would exclude roughly 55% of the members of SCMA, including new attorneys in the field that see mediation as a viable alternative to litigation, perform numerous mediations, and are building a practice. These professional mediators, with and without a J.D., are highly trained and qualified with an extensive history of success achieving resolutions in a multitude of areas including real estate, employment, personal injury, education, etc. In fact, it was these same professional mediators that helped provide great success to the LASC’s prior ADR program. By instituting this requirement, the LASC is attempting to define a mediator as an attorney. It is my position and the position of the SCMA that mediation is not merely a subset of the practice of law, but rather its own field with special training separate and apart from the practice of law. The Los Angeles Superior Court would do well to recognize the full amount of expertise in this area. For this reason, after careful consideration, the SCMA chose not to submit a proposal to the LASC for mediation services.
Since this RFP was released, the leadership of SCMA has considered what we can do in response. In addition to the public statements I have made on the matter, the SCMA will also release a message to the public outlining an alternative proposal that we feel accurately reflects the vast level of expertise that our membership contains. I encourage you all to make your voices heard on the matter and I will be sure to do the same.
Anne Sawyer is an independent Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution Consultant. In addition her private consultation practice, she is the Executive Director of the Southern California Mediation Association.
Her mission is to foster, support and promote mediators and other neutrals and to further increase peaceful resolution of conflicts. Raising public awareness as to the many values of mediation and increase its use to address a broad variety of public and private disputes in a confidential, safe and empowering process is her passion.