As we have transitioned from private law practice (Bill Levine) and as a sitting judge (Chouteau Levine) to doing full-time work as mediators, arbitrators and other neutral roles only with Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC, many people continue to ask us to take on engagements that are representational in nature. For example, several lawyers and clients from one side of a case have asked us to consult on issues presented by a court-based controversy. For another, we have been asked to represent children in court.
We have declined all of these potential roles.
True, none of these jobs would place us in a position to represent a spouse who is an essential stakeholder to litigation issues. But, by their very nature, these jobs imply something that we are not anymore: practicing lawyers whose job it is to “advocate”. Even a private consultation is a form of advocacy, because we are helping one party or another figure out strengths and weaknesses in his or her case, for the purpose of either honing trial preparations or clarifying/enhancing negotiating positions, to the detriment of another party or parties. Thus, the engagement is neither impartial nor it is neutral. Similarly, representing children is a form of advocacy for a particular point of view, even if the represented party is not “responsible” for causing the conflict.
At LDRC, when we mediate, we see it as our mission to open the minds of the parties to see each other’s points of view, to encourage introspection about one’s own real needs, and to detect where mutual needs and priorities intersect. Then, we try to promote sincere efforts to find creative and efficient ways to make agreements that promote these common areas of interest. When we arbitrate, our job is to make a decision, rather than to promote exploration of interests, but our role is nonetheless one that demands that we remain impartial, or indifferent to who “wins or loses”. We must decide the case strictly based in the facts as we hear them and conclude them to be, and the law to which they relate.
In neither of our roles is there room for advocacy for one side or another; and for us, it is important that our market both see us and understand us to be impartial all of the time. It is equally important or us to maintain this intellectual distinction throughout our workday that helps us to stay “neutral” to the very greatest extent that we possibly can.
Along with skills, experience and judgment, our impartiality it is our calling card.