Mediator Focus: John Cooper

By: Penny Gans, WAMS Staff

CooperJohn Cooper, a senior member of the WAMS mediation and arbitration panel, is best described by these words of a frequent WAMS client: “John Cooper is a ‘closer’. He evaluates cases well…gets to the point in negotiations and when he feels that a settlement can be had, he closes the case. If the parties are negotiable, John always gets it done.”

During his distinguished career, John has worn many hats. Not only has he been a member of the WAMS mediator panel since 1989, but he has also been a Washington State Court of Appeals law clerk, law firm partner, solo and swing arbitrator, private judge, seminar presenter and author. He has also earned high honors on the golf course and in the kitchen.

John grew up in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area. He started college at Whitman and transferred to UC-Santa Barbara to take advantage of the very low in-state tuition while he worked his way toward a degree in Economics with high honors. He returned to Seattle and earned his law degree at the UW and spent a year clerking for the Honorable Jerome Farris at the Washington State Court of Appeals. He then joined the Seattle law firm that subsequently became Stafford Frey Cooper. As a practicing attorney, John represented plaintiffs and defendants in a wide range of cases, including negligence and product liability, insurance coverage, commercial, maritime, fidelity and surety law. Because of his experience on both sides of the legal fence, he is often asked to be the neutral or “swing” member of an arbitration panel. In 1989, John represented a client in a WAMS mediation and was subsequently invited to a mediation training session. After joining the WAMS mediation and arbitration panel, his activities as a WAMS neutral soon accounted for nearly 70% of his practice. John changed his relationship with his law firm to “Of Counsel” and became a full-time WAMS mediator/arbitrator.

John’s continued success is based on thorough preparation and his ability to listen carefully to all parties and let them know that he understands their positions. He particularly enjoys the psychology of mediation: reading the participants and “reframing” and delivering messages between them so that progress in the negotiations can continue. John welcomes challenging medical negligence and employment cases because of the interesting legal issues and high caliber of counsel. He thrives on hearing that “You’ll have your work cut out for you on this one!”. As a former trial lawyer, he feels strongly that a successful mediation can be especially therapeutic for the plaintiff, ending the necessity of reliving an unpleasant experience many times to attorneys, doctors and a jury. In John’s words, “I doubt any trial lawyer has ever had a client describe the trial experience as ‘a lot of fun’”. His goal is for all parties to be able to look back at the results of the chosen resolution process and say “that was a good thing.”

Away from WAMS, John and his wife Barbara enjoy traveling to Palm Springs and Hawaii in the winter, as well as taking trips with their eleven-year-old grandson Zach (who has accompanied them to Italy and the East Coast). John’s golf handicap is in the lower double digits, so when the WAMS calendar shows him as “N/A”, it likely means he’s on a golf course somewhere warm (although he also has an annual January golf outing at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.)

To recuperate from the stresses of work and golf, John enjoys spending time in his Bainbridge Island garden and creating delicious meals with his harvest and other local delicacies. A quick and tasty recipe ala John Cooper: Sauté a bit of diced pancetta and finely chopped shallots briefly in olive oil, then add bay scallops for 2-3 minutes; remove, reduce the pan juices with a bit of white wine, and serve with John’s garlic rosemary foccacia bread (recipe provided elsewhere in the newsletter).

John Cooper is truly a multi-faceted man for all seasons and cases and a highly valued asset to WAMS and our clients.

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