Conkle, Kremer & Engel lawyers John Conkle and H. Kim Sim recently volunteered their time and expertise to the Santa Monica Superior Court, serving as attorney volunteers in the Court’s Civil Referee Assisted Settlement Hearing (CRASH) mediation program. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process in which a neutral person (usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge) meets with the opposing parties to discuss the merits and risks of their claims and defenses, to try to reach a negotiated settlement.
The services of John and Kim were in high demand due to severe budget cuts affecting California courts. In an effort to deal with a significant budget shortfall for the 2013-14 fiscal year, the Los Angeles Superior Court announced in March the implementation of a countywide consolidation plan that will create regional hubs for certain types of cases. Personal injury civil cases filed in local courthouses are slated for transfer to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, and when they come up for trial they can be transferred to be tried anywhere in Los Angeles County. The CRASH mediation program took on increased importance as parties in those personal injury cases – in danger of being transferred out of Santa Monica – were sent to participate in mediation conducted by attorney volunteers in a final attempt to settle and avoid a transfer.
CK&E attorneys seldom handle personal injury matters, but they are well practiced in the ways that insurance can be used to help resolve claims. John and Kim also brought to the table their extensive experience in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practice, including the mixture of law and psychology that is mediation. But it was a different experience for them to sit at the center as a neutral, rather than as one of the advocates. The Court and litigants were not the only beneficiaries of their work. Volunteering for this program enhanced their insight into the mediation process and will enhance their effectiveness as client advocates.