I am a mediator/arbitrator and I love my job. In fact, I think I have the best job in the world. Almost every lawyer in the personal injury practice is envious. They all want my job and I don’t blame them. So how did I get so lucky? It certainly wasn’t because of good planning.
I started training for this job at a very young age. I grew up in the 1950’s in Pacoima, California. It’s in the San Fernando Valley, just outside LA. It was a diverse blue collar neighborhood. After high school I attended Valley Junior College, also in the valley. After starting my third year there with only a year’s worth of credits, I realized I was wasting my time so I quit. That’s when my education really began.
I worked on an auto assembly line, loaded box cars, worked in a paper factory, a furniture factory, a liquor store, a drug store, and a few other jobs. Of course, I did learn a lot from these jobs, primarily that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing them. Unfortunately, fate said you can’t do these jobs even if you want to.
“I think I have the best job in the world. Almost every lawyer in the personal injury practice is envious. They all want my job and I don’t blame them. So how did I get so lucky? It certainly wasn’t because of good planning.”
In 1959, I fell off a building and suffered severe orthopedic injuries. It was my fault, it was non-compensable, and it made it impossible to continue doing hard physical labor. There I was with casts up to my hips, unable to work or care for myself. There was nothing to do but go back to school.
I liked it the second time around and was fairly good at it. I graduated with honors from Syracuse University in 1962 and went to Syracuse University Law School on a scholarship. After graduation from law school, I was admitted to the New York Bar. Immediately thereafter, I moved to Arizona. This Westerner just wasn’t comfortable living in the East.
My first job in Arizona was as a Legal Aid lawyer representing the poor in a variety of civil matters. After about a year of that, I opened my own office. This was in the 1960’s when lawyers were not as specialized as they are today. We took everything that walked in the door. I tried just about every type of case there is including divorce and criminal cases.
In 1971 I joined up with Morris A. Kaplan and began limiting my practice to Personal Injury and Wrongful Death law. Shortly thereafter I started doing insurance defense work. I did work for Atlanta Casualty, Midland Risk, Globe America, and others, but my main defense client was Progressive Insurance. I did all their defense work in Maricopa and Pinal Counties, as well as some of the outlying counties. In addition, I continued to handle plaintiff’s injury and death claims.
So what does all this have to do with my mediation practice? The answer is everything.
First and foremost a mediator has to understand the process and the personalities, something I think I do well because of my legal and life’s experiences. I have been a defense lawyer, a plaintiff’s lawyer and an injured person.
About 15 years ago a lawyer asked me to mediate a case. He asked me because I had experience as both a plaintiff’s and defense attorney. After I did a few for friends, I started getting calls from more and more attorneys and about 10 years ago I gave up the practice to do only mediations and arbitrations. Since then I estimate that I have done over 3,000 mediations and arbitrations of personal injuries and wrongful death cases.
With my experience as a trial lawyer for 30+ years and my mediation and arbitration experience, I rarely see a case that is totally unique. I have seen just about every injury a human can have as well as most of the events that can cause them.
I see my main strength as being able to explain our tort system to an injured party in a way that they will understand so they can assess the risks and make an informed decision concerning settlement. With regard to the defense, I can speak their language.
I have read that as we become older our brains slow down in their ability to do exact calculations but our ability to solve problems quickly based on our past experience improves. I certainly hope that is true of me. I think it is.
|Alan Goldman’s CVemail@example.com|