ADR, Family, Mediation, Personal Injury

Flexibility key to successful mediation: Romero

By Kathy Rumleski, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

While there are different types of mediation, Toronto mediator Victoria Romero says adaptability is key to ensuring clients get the best service.

“Mediation is a self-determined process designed to give the parties the power to come up with their own solutions, and a mediator must get a sense of what each client needs,” Romero tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“I don’t have any preconceived notions about what I need to do going into the mediation because the parties bring their own idiosyncrasies, backgrounds and ideas into the process,” she says.
An evaluative mediator, for example, will intervene frequently in the process because guidance is needed, whereas in a facilitative mediation there is an agenda for the discussion, explains Romero.
“Some parties want the ability to let their feelings be made known in the process. If it’s in the mediator’s opinion that this will be conducive to the resolution of the issue, she lets it happen. Others are more controlling of the process and follow traditional steps,” says Romero, principal of the Toronto mediation firm VR Law.
In a lawsuit, both lawyers may understand exactly what needs to be done to negotiate, but in mediation, the facilitator can take whatever steps are necessary to educate participants about the process.
“My role becomes supportive. For the plaintiff, this is a personal matter. We’re talking about his or her injuries and a loss of quality of life. For them it’s personal and for the insurance company, it’s much more objective. This requires a combination of different mediation styles.”

Romero says while the mediator’s experiences can also influence the process, it’s important to be flexible.

“Before you are a lawyer or a mediator, you are a human being — and your experience colours how you see reality, it’s unavoidable. But as a mediator, you must make an effort to not favour one kind of mediation. You must adapt yourself to the people and situation in front of you.”

She equates the role of a mediator to that of a handyman.
“In your box of tools, you have a hammer and a saw and other instruments. You take the tool you need, depending on the task that lies before you.”
Romero says the bulk of her experience is in personal injury litigation and she has recently trained in family mediation, which requires different skills.
“You’re dealing with the breakdown of a marriage and significant changes in the family. Sometimes people arrive at mediation and they aren’t ready for the process. They are still angry so you have to move forward carefully.”

She uses the principles of no harm while ensuring access to justice in all cases.

Sometimes Romero will pass a file along to another mediator if she feels that person could better serve a client, she says.

“If you’re talking about a division of property, you must look at what case law says and how the matrimonial home should be viewed,” she says.
“It’s much more cut-and-dried than if you’re dealing with custody of the children. Case law is but one element as it’s a highly emotional issue. Sometimes a social worker may be a better person to mediate.”

Romero says her experience as a lawyer has helped her become a better mediator.

“It gives me an extra edge to help people. In personal injury, it’s paramount to have a mastery of the subject.”

It’s also important to expand one’s skills and knowledge, Romero says.

“One of the things that drives me is that growth does not happen in your comfort zone. Once you are comfortable in an area, it’s time to challenge yourself and learn more. That’s another reason I took up family mediation. It requires a different set of skills and another way of communicating.”

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