The three key skills for mediators

Judge A. Howard Matz (Retired)

Hon. A. Howard Matz was appointed by President Bill Clinton as a Federal Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California (Los Angeles) and served for 15 years between 1998 and 2013. He presided over numerous noteworthy cases and several of his decisions were ultimately adjudicated by the Supreme Court. Judge Matz served on many judicial committees, including the Ninth Circuit Model Jury Instructions Committee. Judge Matz was the first recipient of the “Vanguard Award” bestowed by the California State Bar for his contributions to intellectual property jurisprudence. Following his retirement from the bench, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Federal Bar Association sponsored an unusual Tribute Dinner honoring his service as a judge.

Over three decades in private practice and on the bench enables retired judge Howard Matz especially well-qualified to point out the three critical attributes for mediators:

Being a good listener.

It’s very critical to listen not only to the words being said but to the meaning of what isn’t being said. That’s how you form an opinion of how complete and reliable what you’re being told is.

Demonstrating good faith.

Arbitrators resolve a dispute while mediators help the parties come to a resolution. Therefore, you have to convey a deep-seated good faith that you’re trying to assist the parties in resolving the dispute fairly. This is more than cosmetic; it’s only useful if everyone believes you are genuine.

Being prepared.

You have to read what’s before you, read up on the case if it’s pending in federal court, and read the applicable law that’s at issue — some cases are anti-trust, some are securities, some have to do with property. You have to know your way around the vineyard in which you’re laboring.