Michael J. Eshman
Eshman Begnaud, LLC
Miles Mediation & Arbitration
Georgia Latino Law Foundation
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Today marks one year since I joined the panel at Miles Mediation & Arbitration as a neutral. I joined with the specific purpose of learning more about language barriers in ADR from the perspective of a neutral. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned a ton. Here are some general stats:
- Virtual vs. In-Person: 90% virtual.
- Types of Cases Mediated: Car wrecks, premises liability, professional malpractice, and sexual harassment
- Language Barriers Encountered: 40% Spanish-speakers and 1 Deaf participant
No. 1 Question Asked of Me: “How can you stomach serving as a neutral when you’re also an advocate and trial attorney?”
My Answer to No. 1 Question: Wearing both hats is a challenge mostly in scheduling. I sincerely believe that doing both makes me better at both. My favorite part of both jobs is connecting with people and helping them find closure out of a bad situation – whether through settlement or verdict. Advocacy and negotiation are certainly very different skills, but the best advocates I have seen are also incredible negotiators.
Resolution Rates: 60%, but I’m still working on that other 40%. I take solace in that in over 80% of the cases I’ve mediated I’ve been told in advance by at least one of the parties that there was no chance of resolution. Seeing the parties find hope in what they believed to be a hopeless situation is my favorite part of the job.
Lessons Learned: Countless. I work very hard to really listen to give the parties an opportunity to be heard. But being a truly active listener is a challenge. Anyone who tells you otherwise probably isn’t listening.