May 2011 31

I’ve been a full time mediator since 2000, and I find I’ve always got something new to learn.  Clients never stop surprising me.

Just when I think I know it all, something happens and I realize that I actually know a lot less than I thought I did.  Let’s face it, I really only knew everything when I was 16 years old. It’s been all downhill from there, LOL.  Part of the wisdom of getting older is realizing exactly how little you know and how much you still have to learn.

So one day we had clients come in and they were really at odds.  Every single issue was an impasse, a fight, or worse.

I’m using every mediation skill, technique and intervention that I can think of. I’m even making a few of them up.  When clients mediate, at least at our office, they expect us to be pretty pro-active, making suggestions, moving the discussion along, and keeping things productive.

But nothing is working.

I wasn’t blaming myself. These folks had been in conflict a long, long time.  To hear their stories, you’d think they were taking about 2 different cases.  I was really working hard.  Not every mediation works out. I wasn’t going to go down without my best efforts, but sometimes if you’re working harder to settle the case than the clients are, maybe it’s time to step back.

So I stepped back.

I was really at a loss. So I asked for help. “What do you think would work?” I said.

Not really expecting a productive answer, I wracked my brain to figure out what to do next.  Just then, the husband made a brilliant suggestion.  He came up with a totally unique way of looking at things and what he suggested, although a little out of the ordinary, would probably work perfectly for them.

And before I could say a word, the wife said, “That’s a great idea!”

I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears.

When was the last time these folks had said a kind word to each other? When was the last time they’d problem-solved instead of arguing? If the first 90 minutes in our office was any indication, it had be quite some time.

Yet at the 90 minute mark, with a tiny prompt, suddenly a solution sounded more appealing than staying in the conflict.

The other 20 agenda items fell into place like dominoes, quickly, one after the other.  Once that big issue had been resolved, all of the other things either resolved or became unimportant.

People settle when they are ready to settle.

As much as mediators may think they (we) do the hard work, it’s really the clients who are pulling the weight.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of 2 books, Your Divorce Advisor and Making Divorce Work. Her full time mediation practice, Peace Talks,  is in Los Angeles.

May 2011 24

Project Vic: This is yet another in an ongoing series of videos where I blog about my attempts to rebuild my relationship with my 82 year old father.  As a mediator, isn’t it important that I walk my talk?  It’s one thing to be a calm, rational mediator when you’re with clients trying to resolve  a problem that doesn’t involved you, and quite another to apply those skills at home with your own family.

I’m going to update Project Vic as long as the videos last. This one is from early December 2010,  right after the big Thanksgiving blow up, and before I saw my dad January 27-30, 2011 for his wedding and my book signing.  Stay tuned, as he was a guest blogger!  AND, things got a lot more interesting!  I’ll post his take on the situation soon.

Truth really IS stranger than fiction.

So stay tuned, and wish me luck!

I really love being a lawyer now that I don’t practice traditional law anymore (just mediation).  I love my work as a mediator, and I love our clients. They work so hard to do the right thing.

This is contrasted by the efforts of my colleagues  (other lawyers).  I spend a LOT of my time protecting my clients from my colleagues.  And my dad is no exception.

So I find out his beloved estate planning lawyer has made yet another mistake on his trust.  I am not an estate planning lawyer, so I did some research and found the answers his attorney missed.


But my dad loves this attorney. There is nothing I can say that will influence the lawyer’s Svengali-like hold on my dad.  And I just end up looking like the greedy kid trying to get in the way.

Any ideas? Has anybody out there been able to handle a situation like this in a productive way?  I send my dad the information, he doesn’t read it.  His lawyer works part time, so nobody can ever get ahold of the lawyer. Time is of the essence–this wedding is supposed to happen in 6 weeks! But the lawyer isn’t returning calls and doesn’t seem to know how to use e-mail.  Impossible!

So frustrating.  But there’s nothing like a little Dinah’s Fried Chicken coffee shop food and a serving of their $3.95 a glass wine. If that won’t get you through a rough day, nothing will. I swear I am going to start dotting the “i” in my name with a chicken leg, just like in the Dinah’s logo.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation  on our video blog and read Diana’s divorce blogs on the Huffington Post

Apr 2011 26

I used Kim Dower as the publicist on my 1st book, Your Divorce Advisor . She was terrific.

She has a new book of her own now, a book of poetry, called Air Kissing On Mars. She’s going to be reading from her new book at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC this weekend.

She’s been a book publicist for 20 years and has a lot of good advice to aspiring authors as well as first time authors. Check out her advice in the video!

As an author, I was very surprised to learn the following:

  • the average book advance is about $5000
  • the book publicists that work for your publishing company will spend about 1 month promoting your book. Then they’re on to the next set of books they have coming out
  • Once you get your advance, you may never see royalties because first you have to earn back your advance via book sales and many publishing houses are sloppy bookkeepers.

How crazy is that?

So why would anyone want to write a book?

Well, for starters, it’s really really cool to open that first box of books when they arrive. So cool! Then you can tell people you’re an author, which is also very cool. As the nerdy little kid who spend her entire 3rd grade summer vacation reading, being an author was a lifelong dream.

But there are more practical reasons to write a book:

* To really crystalize the advice I give clients all the time. Making Divorce Work really did that for me.
* To promote my practice, Peace Talks. We mediate so that people can have uncontested divorce california and redefine their families after divorce without scorching the earth. That feels like important work to me, so writing a book to help get the word out was worth the time and effort.
* The book makes a nice give-away to clients, referral sources and libraries. Of course, Plan A is to sell a zillion copies, but in reality you probably won’t sell enough to retire. Giving away books when you’re using them to promote yourself, your practice, or [fill in the blank] is a pretty inexpensive investment. Plus it shows them that you’re an expert.
* To get better at what you do best. Nothing like teaching a course in what you do to insure that you know what you’re doing! I never learned so much as when I taught a class on family law to budding lawyers, or when I train new mediators. The same is true for writing a book.

It’s a lot of work to write a book. I have had co-authors on all 3 of my books and I enjoy the synergy of working together and sharing ideas. That sort of cut down on the work, but when you work with others you also have to mediate your differences and set a uniform tone to the writing, which are issues in and of themselves.

It’s also more work than you think to write a book. You get started and it’s a fun project. You sell the book, or decide on a self-publisher, and then you have to FINISH the book. When Katie and I turned in Making Divorce Work to our editor at Penguin, it was 250 pages. We got back 182 comments and things to change. Ooops. So we’d turned in the book and then we [basically] had to re-write the book.

But still, you open that first box of books and nothing can compare.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Mar 2011 21

Project Vic isn’t going well. My own efforts to walk my talk as a mediator and mend my relationship with my dad have taken a rocky turn on Thanksgiving.

Jan 2011 18

Publishers Weekly reviews Making Divorce Work

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