Mediator Focus: Donald Kelley

By: Penny Gans | WAMS Staff

DonKellyRTDon Kelley and WAMS go back a long way. Their paths first crossed in the late 1980’s when Don, a prominent plaintiff’s attorney in Tacoma, represented a client in a mediation conducted by Seattle ADR pioneer Alan Alhadeff, director of the WAMS mediation panel at that time. Throughout his career, Don had developed an appreciation and respect for both sides of the cases he tried. He always looked for ways to help his clients achieve satisfactory outcomes of their claims while avoiding the oppositional nature of litigation. He has always been regarded as a worthy yet reasonable plaintiffs’ advocate who earned the respect of his peers. The mediation process fascinated him from the start and suited his personality. When he was ready for a new professional challenge in 1989, WAMS invited Don to participate in its intensive mediator training program and join the WAMS panel.

Since joining WAMS, Don has mediated more than 3,500 injury, commercial and tort claims in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the United States. For many years, Don also maintained his private law practice, feeling that continuing as a working attorney helped him as a mediator, and vice versa. In response to an increasing mediation caseload, Don finally closed his office in 2005 and became a full-time mediator.

Don has strong feelings about the mediation process and the proper role of the mediator. He believes the participants in mediation must have faith in the confidentiality of the process and the absolute neutrality of the mediator. He feels that clients are justified in expecting that their case will be resolved during the period of time allocated to the mediation. He works very hard to achieve settlement during the scheduled mediation session, believing momentum can be lost if the mediator “adjourns” the mediation in favor of telephone follow-up. Don’s years of experience with clients and juries enables him to quickly clarify issues and raise “talking points” with all parties. He asks questions which help each party visualize what the other parties might be thinking. Don looks for opportunities to humanize and personalize each room to the other side, feeling that the effort will encourage the parties to listen to each other and negotiate instead of argue. As one of his many satisfied clients wrote, “One presumes that you enjoy mediating. It sure looks that way.”

A creative mediator, Don is also creative in his personal life. He is an accomplished photographer, having honed his skill as a TV news and sports cameraman while still a student at the University of Washington. Don also walks (rather, drives) on the wild side, as a sports car buff and avid fan of Formula One auto racing, which he has observed up close in England, Canada, France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Don and his airline pilot son periodically tune up their driving skills at the Laguna Seca competitive race course in Monterey, California. According to Don, the racing instructors driving Dodge Neons on the corkscrew track are more than a match for the students who drive racing-type formula cars. Don definitely knows how to make a highway-patrol-style U-turn! Don also enjoys sailing, dabbling in creative writing and playing the occasional round of golf “with a relaxed attitude”. Don’s professionalism and that relaxed attitude are much appreciated by his mediation clients at WAMS.

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