The First Female Chair
JAMS, the largest private arbitration and mediation provider, started in '79. This May, its first female chair steps in, and it's a woman who helped pioneer the field.
When Linda Singer started looking into mediation while still practicing traditional law, it was to develop ways for prisoners to have their problems solved. "I had to create a field in order to become a mediator." Courts were starting to recognize prisoners' rights, but litigation took too much time and caused animosity. She and some colleagues helped institutions develop grievance procedures that had both arbitration and mediation. Then they experimented with ADR in schools, hospitals, and community justice centers, before it came to business and big public policy issues.
The next step, particularly for Linda as JAMS chair, is to dramatically increase the diversity of mediators and arbitrators. Right now, the company has around 300 neutrals; in most fields, female and minority neutrals aren't used proportionately, something they're trying to talk to corporate counsel and outside counsel about. We snapped Linda and her husband Michael Lewis, in the JAMS DC office, where Michael is a fellow mediator. Linda tells us that she transitioned into mediation and arbitration because people tend to feel so much more satisfied when they're solving their problems themselves.
Here's a flashback photo of Ken Feinberg with Linda and Michael, when the couple received the D'Alemberte-Raven Award in '12 for their leadership and innovation in the alternative dispute resolution field. Linda has handled everything from employment disputes to class actions with hundreds of plaintiffs, or more—like a group of 1,400 African-American stockbrokers litigating against Merrill Lynch and BoA for seven years, which JAMS resolved a few months ago, or class actions against the Postal Service and FBI—to environmental disputes with numerous governments, companies and individuals.
Want to know if you have what it takes to be a master mediator? Here are what Linda says are some of the top qualities: listening and earn trust, analyzing a problem, persistence, and delivering bad news without losing your connection with people. How did you score?