The Velvet Hammer – Striking a Balance Through Mediation
When it comes to mediation style, there is no “one way,” and it “depends upon who is in the room that day.” That’s the kind of flexible, adaptable, and sharp thinking that Elizabeth Todd brings to all disputes. Known as the “Velvet Hammer,” Elizabeth brings an ease to the parties but a firm touch to every case she mediates. You might call her the all-rounder because Elizabeth works as hard as she plays.
When she’s not getting in her daily work out, hiking a mountain trail, or studying interior design, Elizabeth is engaged in bringing all parties to the table in cases ranging from property and product-related claims to corporate business disputes.
A Clear View From Opposing Sides
“No one walks into an attorney’s office and thinks that their issue may take two or three years to resolve- that is problematic for clients.” Mediation is one solution. What Elizabeth realized early in her career is that often clients don’t see that they are the obstacle to resolution. “Despite solid legal advice, some attorneys are unable to move their clients to make a good decision due to some emotion, principle, or unsupported idea the client is holding. I have prided myself in my law practice and as a mediator to move people to make good decisions”. Elizabeth is keenly suited to identify both the outstanding legal issues and common ground. From there, she guides the parties to focus on what matters and how to resolve those matters.
Elizabeth offers an inimitable approach to mediation — a skill that she has mastered over a nearly 30-year career in law. The fact that she has spent an equal amount of time on the plaintiff and defense sides means she has the knowledge and expertise to focus on what matters most to the parties. Having served as an attorney in law firms ranging from international to solo practice and working claims with insurance adjusters to corporate counsel, she is uniquely situated to understand the position of the various parties at the mediation table.
Elizabeth believes in giving all parties high-value services. She gathers as much information as the parties desire pre-mediation or that she thinks will be necessary to streamline the mediation. Simultaneously, Elizabeth does not draw any conclusions or develop any ideas about positions, ensuring she maintains her neutral role. Before the start of the actual mediation, she makes an intentional effort to clear her head so that she can focus all her thoughts and energy on the parties involved. “I have never believed the mantra of some mediators: ‘If the mediation is successful, everyone will be a little unhappy’.” Ultimately, the goal is to allow people and companies to move on with a fair and reasonable resolution while simultaneously getting the benefit of better lives, positive emotions, or financial/business satisfaction.
The Balancing Act
Often, people think that mediation is a matter of balancing the desires and expectations of all parties present, and it certainly involves that. However, successful mediators balance specific legal knowledge with knowledge and practice of mediation techniques, a skill Elizabeth executes flawlessly.
Elizabeth believes that attorneys who retain mediators naturally and logically gravitate towards hiring a mediator who is an expert in an area of law. There’s a benefit to this: it’s easier to mediate a case when you have a firm grasp of the substantive or procedural law. However, it’s a good-to-have, not necessarily a must-have. Elizabeth sees that as long as counsel is well-versed in the area of law, substantively, procedurally, or both, she is free to focus on her purpose – to move the parties toward common ground.
The Present and Future of ADR
When it comes to ADR, Elizabeth can read the tea leaves, involved as she has been for the last 30 years. Early in her career, as a fierce advocate representing clients ranging from a large elevator and escalator company to doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice actions, Elizabeth used her legal training along with her communications and psychology degrees to negotiate on her clients’ behalf.
As her career progressed, she was a part of mediation’s natural evolution from an alternative dispute resolution tool to an accepted dispute resolution tool. Today, in North Carolina, Superior Court cases trigger mandatory mediation. Also, North Carolina requires certified mediators to resolve specific classes of disputes in a suit. These certifications set the stage for a future where ADR is treated as a primary route of dispute resolution. Elizabeth is dual certified for civil and domestic matters in North Carolina and also eligible to mediate cases in the United States District Court for the Western District of NC.
Virtual mediation, once viewed as a technological fancy for the future, has taken a firm foothold in the present where necessary, solidifying this method of dispute resolution as most adaptable to uncertain times. No longer a part of the future of resolution, virtual mediation has transformed the way services are delivered, demonstrating that physical distance does not have to stand in the way of achieving a satisfactory outcome.
Elizabeth will tell you that the future of resolution now hinges on striking a balance between fierce advocacy and compromise, experience and training, traditional strategies and creative thinking… and that future is bright.
ABOUT ELIZABETH TODD
As a mediator at Miles Mediation & Arbitration, Elizabeth Todd handles employment, coverage disputes, real estate, personal injury, brain injury, and medical malpractice. Elizabeth is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.