Underlying many disputes are family and other close personal issues, where family members, co-workers or friends find themselves in conflict. For example, an employment claim can arise from a now-divorced daughter-in-law working in the family business. Similarly, disputes within a particular national, religious or cultural group create heightened emotions and implications on relationships beyond the immediate parties to the dispute. These all require an awareness of the issues at stake and a willingness to develop the trust of the parties to allow a full exploration of their concerns and of more creative options for finding a resolution.
A distinct but related set of disputes arise from the diverse environment of the Bay Area. I have mediated disputes involving people from all over the world. Businesses have relationships with suppliers and customers in central and East Asia, Europe and elsewhere. The Bay Area has many national, ethnic and religious communities. Even local disputes arise both among members of the same group and between members of different groups, and cultural issues can underlay business and tort claims, such as a defamation suit brought by one member of a mosque against another, or a dispute among members of an Asian national community about whether money that changed hands in an oral arrangement was a loan or an investment in a business.
Settlement of these claims requires some sensitivity to cultural issues that impact the perspectives of the parties and my communication with them. I focus on the individuals involved while trying to be aware of and, if necessary, to learn about the cultural differences between the participants in the mediation, all with the goal of helping the parties reach an agreement that serves their interests.