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Trio of mentors helps mediator find her voice

Toronto mediator Victoria Romero credits a trio of experienced mentors with helping her gather the tools to become an effective mediator.

Frank Gomberg, Jay Rudolph and Harold Cares of Miller Thomson LLP “deserve kudos” for welcoming Romero when she asked if she could shadow them to learn from their experience as mediators, she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

That, combined with education at York University and a successful practicum in small claims court being the mediator on duty, has helped her transition from 15 years as a civil litigator to mediation with her new business.

While mediation is not applicable for all legal cases, it can be a time and cost-saving alternative to the litigation process, says Romero, principal of VR Law.

“For most cases settlement makes sense,” she explains, calling it a “better, more efficient way to help people.”

“This is a self-determinative process, meaning the parties are in control to try to find a solution that’s beneficial for both parties,” she explains.

It’s an area that Romero has been interested in since she was a high school student and signed up to be a class peer mediator. It led to her going to law school.

“Now that I’ve been practising as a litigator for 15 years, it’s time to really pursue this as a career,” she says.

Mentorship is crucial to adopting the skills to be effective in the often-fluid and dynamic process of negotiation, Romero explains.

“There is no script as to how to conduct a mediation,” she says.

A mediator has a toolbox of skills and steps leading to negotiations, adds Romero, whose law practice focuses on personal injury and civil litigation, areas she will continue to serve as a mediator.

“You have to be prepared to deal with whatever happens in the process,” Romero points out, adding that seeing how other mediators think on their feet helped strengthen her practical skills while allowing her to become more nimble.

Like her, all her mentors were practising civil litigation before switching to mediation.

Gomberg, a 34-year veteran in the field, allowed Romero to sit in and observe his mediation sessions once a month for a year. She describes him as a “wizard” in the field, teaching her through some challenging cases.

“That experience has proved to be so valuable and insightful. Things I’ve learned just by observing him, I would not have learned anywhere else,” she says.

“I have seen him in mediation where there are multiple cases and parties, a multiplicity of parties,” says Romero. “When I think of Frank, I think of the art of mediation. If mediation is an art, Frank is the Michelangelo.

From Rudolph, who has been working in mediation for 22 years, “I saw how he was able to manage the plaintiff. He could make the plaintiff feel that he understood what he was going through. He made the plaintiff feel heard.”

Mentoring also allowed her to see how mediators deal with difficult parties.

“I am incredibly grateful,” says Romero, who intends to make herself available to mentor others when she is established full-time in the field.

“You have to pay it forward to create a culture of mentoring,” she adds. “You have to start with yourself. You can only change yourself and hopefully, your change will affect other people and from there it’s going to grow.” 

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