Get to Know Mediator Debbie Tarkington
What was your first law job?
Was a law clerk for a criminal defense attorney. Wonderful experience. Got to travel to all courts in the metro Atlanta area, met Judges, attorneys. Lots of practical experience. Understood that being a criminal defense attorney was not in the cards for me – civil litigation here I come!
How did you decide to branch out into mediation and alternative dispute resolution?
Mediation is something I have always wanted to do. I think that it is an invaluable service provided to clients and their attorneys. I have been a huge supporter of mediation since its inception and utilized mediation on almost every case I handled over the last 25+ years.
What are you most proud of with respect to your career?
I would say my reputation. I tried to always be fair and diplomatic with any cases I handled whether as a Plaintiff or Defense attorney.
If you had to identify a passion for a particular area of the law, what would it be?
Commercial litigation hands down.
How does your experience help you add value to conflict resolution clients and their disputes?
I have handled just about any type of personal injury case out there. I have done auto, commercial, trucking, construction, products liability, negligent security, wrongful death. Over the 25+ years, the companies I worked for had a lot of different insureds, so everyday there was a new case to defend in multiple areas of the law.
What is the importance of Alternative Dispute Resolution?
If you are a trial attorney, ADR is invaluable. There is no way that you can take every case that you have to trial, nor do you want to. Most cases should be resolved way before they are ever prepared for trial. However, because we are all so busy multitasking this process allows everyone to slow down, focus and get the case the attention it needs and get the case resolved.
What do you hope to accomplish through your ADR practice?
Of course, resolution. However, I always say that there is a great benefit to mediation, even if you don’t settle the case. The parties ALWAYS learn something new about their case, even if the case does not resolve. It could be opposing counsel’s strategy, work that needs to be done to get the case ready for trial, prior/pre-existing issues. Mediation is never a bad thing.
How has your life experience made you the neutral you are today?
I come from a very hardworking, middle class, blue collar background. I am the first in my family to graduate from college. My family history makes me relatable to a lot of clients. My work history covers a lot of ground as well. I have worked as both a Plaintiff and Defense attorney.
In your estimation, why do clients like working with you?
My experience level is very broad. I think that people find me to be down to earth, I relate well to most clients on some level. I am also tenacious – I will keep working until someone tells me to stop. I continue to follow up after an impasse. I take it personally if a case does not settle.
How does ADR help lawyers become more successful?
What kind of trends are you seeing in mediation?
If You Had to Teach A Subject, What Would It Be?
Constitutional Law. Favorite class in law school. Such great debates were had in that class.
What’s your favorite way to spend free time?
I like to build furniture, read, hike and boat.
What makes Georgia such a dynamic state?
I love Georgia! It offers everything you want in one state. In less than a days drive, you can be in the mountains, the beach, metropolitan city, sporting events, farmland. The State Park system in phenomenal, we have any sports team you want to watch, cultural events, outdoor activities (except snow skiing – but after living in Michigan, I am ok without snow). Why would you want to live anywhere else?
What’s Your Favorite Holiday and Why?
Thanksgiving hands down. All of the “F’s”. Friends, family and food – all stress free!
What’s something your clients would never guess about you?
That I build furniture.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
You have to jump when you have the chance – have faith and just do it. You will always ask yourself why you didn’t do it sooner.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
Definitely an engineer.
If You could have dinner with any one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Oprah or Ellen – just because they are awesome and fun.