ADR, Estates & Wills & Trusts, Family, Mediation

Embracing diversity the cornerstone of Romero’s practice

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Toronto mediator Victoria Romero first began settling disputes in high school as part of a peer conflict-resolution program. She’s never looked back.

“From Day 1, it made sense to me,” Romero, principal of the Toronto mediation firm VR Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Addressing conflicts when they first appear seemed like a sound strategy. It gives the parties freedom to choose their own solutions.”

Through law school and a civil litigation career that has spanned more than 14 years, mediation has been a constant, so much so that she recently founded her own mediation-focused practice.

“Mediation always felt like swimming,” says Romero, a native of Peru who immigrated to Canada as a teenager.

“I swam as much as I walked,” she says of growing up near the Peruvian coast. “It was natural to me, it was part of my life. So, when I started my training in mediation, it came naturally to me. This was something I believed in innately.”

Romero is grateful for the foundation in law that her litigation experience has provided, as she now focuses on learning the ins and outs of running a firm. She is also pursuing certification as a family mediator, an important complement to her other practice areas in civil and personal injury files.

“I wanted to make sure that I had the training,” she says. “And I’ve been shadowing top mediators once a month, to make sure that I have the practical grounding.”

Romero thrives on the diversity of people and situations she encounters in her practice.

“It’s so motivating to always be facing something different, to learn about other people and how they perceive conflicts, and to help them along the path to resolution,” she says.

In her work, Romero draws on her experience as an immigrant in dealing with her clients, many of them are newcomers to Canada.

“Being an immigrant helps because it gives me an edge in understanding people and I believe it helps them open up to me,” she says.

While her first language is Spanish, she serves clients beyond the Latino population.

“I concentrate on the ethnic community, period.”

Inclusion and cross-cultural understanding are at the heart of Romero's practice.

“My goal is to have a mediation clinic that is responsive to diversity — not just culturally and linguistically, but also of gender, social status and religious beliefs,” she says. “I don’t think you should shy away from difficult topics.”

In mediation, the dispute is often just the tip of the iceberg of the real conflict, Romero says.

She recalls an estate case where a woman was suing her former son-in-law for funeral expenses for her daughter, his late wife. Romero discovered through the process that the deceased had been unfaithful to her husband in the year before she died and that he was still grieving over the betrayal.

“That experience had nothing to do with money,” she says.

Romero sees her role, to a large degree, as unearthing the real drivers of the conflict, often by being a “chameleon,” she says.

“I become what the parties need me to be.”

She tries to discover the truth through questioning and watching for clues.

“Ninety-five per cent of what is said is not through words, but body language,” she says. “I always pay attention to that.”

Romero says communication is integral to a successful mediation.

“It’s not the what, it’s the how,” she says. “You can say anything, but what’s important is how you package, present and communicate it to the other person. At the end of the day, if you are able to get your message across in a respectful way, the parties will listen.”

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