Mediator Focus: Michelle Corsi

By: WAMS Staff

corsi“Navigator” is a word Michelle Corsi often uses when describing her role as an actively practicing trial attorney and member of the WAMS mediation and arbitration panel. With a practice focus that professional liability, employment and personal injury, Michelle’s commitment to clients and effectiveness over her 20-year legal career have earned her top honors and distinguished recognition among her peers. She finds it personally rewarding and challenging to help clients navigate the litigation process which, for most, is their first and only experience with the law.

As a mediator, Michelle uses her perceptiveness and communication skills as navigational tools to help guide parties through mediation to resolution. She sees mediation as a conversational forum in which participants are encouraged to tell their stories and be heard by a neutral, compassionate listener. She prepares herself well in advance of the mediation by reading submissions, contacting counsel with questions as needed, then listening actively to discover the respective parties’ motivations and goals to establish a course for resolution. Michelle’s practical experience as a trial lawyer makes her a relevant guide, as she is current in litigation trends and knows what courts and juries are doing. Michelle says, “I believe that most cases have a resolution point and it is always worth the effort to find it.”

Following a family tradition, Michelle earned her undergraduate degree at WSU, where she, her brothers and cousin often play intramural softball and flag football teams. An English major, Michelle pursuing a legal career after completing a course in Constitutional Law. While at Willamette University College of Law, she earned a Certificate of Dispute Resolution and volunteered in a legal clinic run by local attorneys.

After receiving her law degree from Willamette in 1994, she clerked for a Snohomish County judge before receiving an invitation to join the Lee Smart firm in Seattle, where she is now a shareholder. Years of positive experiences with WAMS rekindled her interest in becoming a mediator was welcomed to our mediation and arbitration panel in 2013 after completing the University of Washington’s Professional Mediation Course and WAMS Advanced Mediator training.

Michelle’s navigational skills are also instrumental in her private life. As parents of two sports Michelle and her husband are fully involved with community events and youth activities in They both serve on the Board of Directors of Pacific Little League, an organization serving 800 and girls playing baseball and softball between the ages of 5 and 18. As a board member and “player agent,” Michelle forms the baseball tea games and organizes the all is also a team coach and last summer coached the team that represented the entire Northwest Region at the Little League World Series in Will Pennsylvania. During winter, the whole snowboarding and skiing at Stevens Pass and Whistler.

Michelle’s personal and professional experience, knowledge and commitment to the mediation process make her an effective navigator for clients and a valuable addition to the WAMS panel.

Mediator Focus: Monte Bersante

“A Man with Serious Rhythm” By: Penny Gans, former WAMS Staffer

Besante“No matter what you’re doing, always try to improve by being creative and bringing a different perspective to bear.”

This philosophy has defined Monte Bersante since his early days as a studio drummer and performer in several Seattle indie bands, including “Killeye Candy”, through his medical training, legal career, community service as Board President of Tacoma’s Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, and as a new addition to the WAMS neutral panel.

Monte grew up in Spokane and was playing drums professionally by the age of 14. He was mentored by older musicians and has always enjoyed interacting with musicians of all ages. Monte still does studio work with indie bands in Seattle, using his two, complete 7-piece drum sets and extensive collection of cymbals and favorite snare drums (some more than 30 years old). When Monte’s parents finally convinced him to “get a real job”, he trained as a cardio pulmonary technician and worked on open heart and cath lab teams at Swedish and Harborview Hospitals. While working full time, he enrolled at Seattle U and earned his BA degree in History, then completed his JD at the University of Puget Sound. After interning with the Washington Attorney General’s Antitrust Division, Monte joined Davies Pearson in Tacoma, where he has been a partner since 1993. At Davies Pearson, he was part of the firm’s evolution from insurance defense to broader representation of personal injury, estate planning, employment, workmen’s compensation and business clients. Monte’s medical background has made him a “go-to” person for medical malpractice and serious injury claims in Pierce County.

When Monte joined Davies Pearson, WAMS mediator Larry Levy was the partner who introduced Monte to mediation, then in its infancy. Representing clients in mediation increased Monte’s appreciation of the process of bringing multiple parties together to work through the challenging emotional dynamics. Monte credits his wife, Syd (President of St. Joseph Medical Center), for helping him learn to deal collaboratively with different personalities. As a plaintiff’s lawyer, Monte’s ability to work effectively and creatively with defense attorneys, adjusters and subrogated interests gave him confidence that he could succeed as a mediator.

Monte stresses the importance of creativity and patience in developing strategies for mediating different cases. Monte believes that the mediation process encourages participants to feel that what they say can impact their case. “This is your case”, he tells them. “Talk about what is important to you.” He frequently calls attorneys ahead of a mediation to learn about underlying issues that may not be apparent in their briefing. For instance, has the plaintiff been influenced by a friend or “sidewalk lawyer” who bragged about a huge settlement received (or heard about) for a similar case? Does a relative’s experience or opinion have a real bearing on this specific matter? Monte emphasizes how important it is for lawyers to evaluate their cases appropriately, prepare their clients for the sort of negotiation that happens in mediation and think creatively about settlement.

Monte’s creativity extends to the kitchen, as weekends are his time to prepare family meals. One of his favorite resources is The Flavor Thesaurus, a cookbook where a cook can choose one ingredient and find dozens of possible pairings with others. His enjoyment of good food is made possible by his daily weightlifting workouts, a legacy of a 2011 lifestyle change that enabled him to lose 85 pounds.

For Monte, one of the pleasures of being a mediator is working with and learning from the many excellent lawyers in the Puget Sound area. Monte’s wide- ranging interests and depth of experience have given him the knowledge and interpersonal skills that are essential in mediation. WAMS is delighted to welcome him to its panel.

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.

Focus: WAMS Technology

By: WAMS Staff

Website: The WAMS website is a great resource for our clients. It offers a plethora of information about mediator bios, fee schedules, mediation and arbitration rules, useful links and contact information. The most popular feature, however, is our online calendar for short notice scheduling. This feature allows clients to see mediator availability for the next two weeks. As a reminder, there is no cancellation fee when you schedule a hearing within 2 weeks of the hearing date and need to cancel for any reason.

Mobile Website: Created in 2010, the WAMS Mobile Website provides users with a streamlined experience for viewing content from the WAMS website.

To view the mobile site from your Iphone, go to www.usamwa.com  in the internet browser. In the left hand column, select the link to view the WAMS mobile site. To save the mobile site as an application (app) to your phone, click on the forwarding arrow of your internet browser bar, and select “Add to Home Screen”. From your Droid’s internet browser, follow the same directions above to the mobile site. To save the mobile site as an application (app) to your phone, long press your home screen, go to shortcuts and bookmark the page. From your Blackberry internet browser, follow the same directions to access the mobile site. To save it as an application (app) to your phone, press on the Menu button and select “Add to Home Screen.” (With the new site the mobile site is already created.)

Email: WAMS Case Administrators utilize email in a variety of ways to help the scheduling process run smoothly and efficiently for our clients. Not only do we use email to coordinate scheduling, but we do the following as well:

  • Email referral templates for case information when a new case is being submitted.
  • Email calendar availability quickly.
  • Email confirmation documents to the parties once a hearing is set. We’ve found this to not only be “green”, but preferred by clients who can then forward the information to their respective clients and reduce the time and expense of typical mailing.

Submissions: With most attorneys now using email, WAMS encourages submitting mediation materials via email. Mediators prefer that materials submitted electronically be limited to 10 pages, so they are not required to print lengthy documents. Attorneys usually submit mediation briefs via email referencing their exhibits, then bring the actual exhibits to the mediation. Don Kelley prefers all submissions in electronic format, as he carries his iPad during mediations and references materials online as needed.

WAMS now sends invoices almost exclusively in electronic format. WAMS Arbitration Rules permit Electronic Filing of submissions subject to a 10 page limit without prior authorization. All submissions over 10 pages (inclusive of exhibits) must be submitted in hard copy. The Witness/Exhibit list is often less than 10 pages. The arbitration Award is provided in electronic format via email to counsel unless otherwise requested. WAMS continues to evolve with technology, but has not yet embraced e-filing in arbitration.

Mediator Focus: Michele Sales

By: Penny Gans | WAMS Staff

salesIn her 20+ years as a mediator and arbitrator with WAMS, Michele Sales has earned the respect of plaintiff and defense counsel alike for her understanding of legal issues, her ability to put injured parties at ease in highly stressful situations, and her diligence in following through after the mediation to resolve any remaining issues. As one of her long-time clients puts it, “Michele does more to get a case settled than any other mediator I have ever worked with.”

Michele believes that “most cases should settle, and sooner than a week before the trial.” She values the mediation process for “forcing people to talk to each other sooner than they otherwise might and for helping attorneys settle cases without risking being seen as weak.” She believes successful mediation requires the mediator to have experience in the subject area and come to the table thoroughly prepared. Michele says that although the mediator can’t know everything about the case, it is important to demonstrate to both client and attorney that she is engaged and actively listening. Settlement may depend on the financial situation of the parties, the influence of another similar case, relationships, desire for confidentiality, or other issues that are not initially evident to the mediator. Michele is known for her persistence and encouragement of clients to keep working toward settlement if the case doesn’t resolve at mediation. As the complexity of her mediation practice has grown in recent years, Michele has often found herself without enough time to fully resolve all issues requiring attention. As a result, she decided in 2011 to require clients scheduling with her to devote a full day to the mediation. Michele understands that some of her clients may not require a full day for all of their cases, but she is confident that most of the cases she mediates will benefit from having the additional time allocated.

Michele grew up in El Paso, Texas, polished her “convincing” skills in high school debate, and completed undergraduate and law school at Duke University. An active Duke alumna (particularly during college basketball season, when she “bleeds Duke Blue”), she has served as president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and as a member of the University Board of Trustees. Duke Law School has asked her to serve as Referee and mediator for major medical product liability class action suits, as well as gender discrimination and sexual harassment class actions against national firms. On a lighter note, it was at Duke that Michele took her first golf lesson, beginning a lifetime of joy and frustration. Michele met Chris, her future husband, while he was a Naval officer stationed in California. His transfer to Italy during her last two years of law school meant summers and Christmas in Italy and an opportunity to spend time in the Navy’s Legal Service Office, assisting with courts-martial. After a move to Seattle in 1981, Michele joined the Oles Morrison firm and spent the next few years handling personal injury, insurance, and employment defense matters, plus “any case that needed a woman”. She became a partner in 1989, then left to establish Steele and Sales with Katherine Steele in 1990, specializing in asbestos litigation. Although Michele had been a WAMS neutral since 1988, it was in 2001 that she became a full-time mediator, focusing on employment, product liability, personal injury, and other areas involving complex legal issues.

Among the many community activities she has enjoyed, Michele singles out her involvement as a member of the Navy League committee to commission ships accepted into the Navy, a ceremony known as “bringing the ship alive”. In addition to working locally on the commissioning of the USS Shoup in 2002, Michele attended the commissioning of the USS Ronald Reagan in Norfolk, VA in 2003, watching Nancy Reagan formally bring the ship into the U.S. Navy. Through her association with the Navy League, Michele became involved with Seafair and served on its Board of Directors from 2002-2009. As Chairman of the Board in 2009, she delighted the friends and colleagues watching her waving graciously to the Seafair Parade crowds from the back of a bright yellow Corvette convertible.

Chris and Michele enjoy cruising in the San Juans and have recently traveled in Spain, Argentina, and New Zealand, sharing their highly entertaining travel blogs with friends and associates. They also try to attend the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas as often as possible – Michele is a Texas gal, after all!

Mediator Focus: Judit Gebhardt

By: Penny Gans | WAMS Staff

GebhardtJudit Gebhardt is a passionate woman whose intense curiosity and readiness to take advantage of opportunities have given her a variety of life experiences that enhance her skills as a professional neutral. Judit has been a WAMS panel member since 1988 and is a recently retired Industrial Appeals Judge. In her thirty-two year judicial career, Judit conducted bench trials and delivered more than 1,600 decisions in work-related personal injury, occupational disease and toxic exposure cases as well as medical standard of care, workmen’s compensation fraud, wage loss, pension, and consumer protection matters. She is an avid student of medical developments and stays current by attending jury trials to hear expert testimony. Judit has a wealth of knowledge about entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security), knowing that ten to twenty percent of injury cases have an entitlement element lurking somewhere.

As a judge, Judit’s decisions required careful listening, a critical skill that has served her in good stead as a mediator. She believes that mediation is very personal, especially for the plaintiff, so she actively engages with the parties so they know their situation has been understood. In her words, “Resolution usually occurs when parties are able to consider all opportunities and reach the best decision.” Her experience as a judge has convinced her that mediation is a safer environment than the courtroom for allowing parties to reach a conclusion that will be more satisfying than if a judge or jury make the decision for them. As a mediator, Judit does not direct the parties to a solution, but she provides information and perspective to facilitate settlement. When she feels that a case should have settled, she continues to work with the parties after the mediation is over to bring resolution.

In addition to mediating a wide range of cases, Judit is frequently asked to arbitrate UIM, tort, and commercial disputes or for the State of Washington’s Lemon Law program. She has also taught Evidence, Worker’s Compensation, and Administrative Law in various CLE courses and has served as chair of the Administrative Law section of the Washington State Bar.

Raised in a conservative, German-speaking household in Oregon, Judit’s first passion was classical ballet and her first job was helping her father in the family bakery. She became politically active in high school and found a mentor in independent senator Wayne Morse, whose reelection campaign she managed in Washington County and who encouraged her to consider law school. At Portland State University, Judit studied math and psychology and helped develop a Women’s Studies program. At Willamette University Law School, she developed a Family Law Center and spent three years as a family law litigator while gaining her JD in 1976. She became a Hearing Examiner for the Department of Employment Security before being appointed to the Washington State Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.

In her personal life, Judit also enjoys exploring how pieces best fit together. She is an avid quilter, creating heirloom quilts for friends and family members based on collaborative designs worked out on a computer. Her other ongoing project is the completion of a 1500-piece Tiffany-style stained glass lamp. Judit’s interest in stained glass resulted in her becoming the owner of a publishing house specializing in instructional materials for stained glass hobbyists. Judit is most passionate about her family, especially her two grandchildren. She has always encouraged them to do as she has always done: to relish their choices and always follow the paths that interest them. Her caring, down-to-earth manner, confidence, and love of the dispute resolution process allow everyone who encounters Judit to know they are in good hands.

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.

Focus: Tacoma WAMS

By: Diane McGaha | WAMS Director

As many clients know, Washington Arbitration & Mediation Service was founded in Seattle and maintained offices in Seattle and Spokane for many years. But in 1992, when the Spokane office closed and Diane McGaha was recruited back to WAMS as the Managing Attorney (after 3 years in private practice), the decision was made to open a satellite office in Tacoma.

The rationale for a Pierce County office was simple: Diane would only leave her law practice and return to the world of ADR administration if WAMS would allow her to open a Tacoma office.

The first WAMS office in Tacoma opened in 1992 in the old Norton Clapp Law Center in downtown Tacoma. The location was chosen because WAMS had historically collaborated with the University of Puget Sound law school (also in that building at the time) to allow students to observe hearings, participate in training opportunities and provide mentors and judges for negotiation competitions. With the sale and pending move of the law school to Seattle University, WAMS relocated from downtown to the Old Town area.

For ten years, the Tacoma WAMS office enjoyed a view of Commencement Bay and the Ruston Way waterfront, but WAMS eventually outgrew the space and relocated to the Proctor District. Although the convenience of Starbucks downstairs was a definite positive aspect to the Proctor location, ongoing problems with parking, security and the HVAC system required another move.

As of October 1, 2008, Tacoma WAMS has been located in the Port of Tacoma office building, formerly known as the World Trade Center and now the Fabulich Center. Ample parking, easy access from I-5 and close proximity to Pick-Quick burgers and Fife City Bar & Grill (two of the best eating establishments in the Puget Sound area) were important factors in the relocation decision. The new WAMS office offers free wi-fi to clients and has 7 conference rooms available, with an additional 3 rooms available in the building if needed.

Mediator Focus: Pat Duffy

By: Natalie Snyder | WAMS Staff

duffyThe path to becoming a professional mediator is somewhat unique for each member of the WAMS mediation panel. In the case of Pat Duffy, the opportunity to become a mediator came from WAMS in 2001, in the form of a request that he consider being trained to join the panel. Pat practiced plaintiff’s personal injury law in Tacoma from 1975-1992, then moved his practice to Sumner in 1992. He utilized mediation in his own law practice before ever becoming a mediator.

“Pat Duffy had been a WAMS client for many years, so the staff and mediators at WAMS had numerous opportunities to see first-hand what an exemplary lawyer and person he is. He always treated his clients, colleagues and support staff with the utmost respect and courtesy, so we hoped he would become a WAMS mediator as soon as possible,” according to WAMS President and House Counsel, Diane McGaha. “He’s just the kind of person you enjoy being around,” she says.

“Bringing people together” is what mediation is all about for Pat Duffy. As Pat says, “I like people, I like stories, and I’ve heard many good ones over the years. I guess that is part of my Irish heritage.” Pat got much of his professional inspiration from his father, a family doctor who practiced medicine for many years in Pierce County. Pat says his father encouraged him as a young man in ways that made him want to be a person who makes a difference. “I like to learn a little bit about the plaintiff and often ask about their background, family, education and work. This helps to put the person at ease, since walking into a formal office setting and meeting new people can be an intimidating experience for some.”

The challenges of the adversarial process and the different approaches taken by plaintiff and defense counsel are what keep Pat enjoying his mediation work. “I try to understand the issues and hopefully identify areas of agreement in order to resolve the dispute.” Pat’s favorite aspect of the mediation process is that “the result of a mediation is more predictable than a jury verdict.” As a mediation client himself, he also understands that “there are benefits to the clients and attorneys – one of which is minimizing the expense” of litigation.

During his off time, Pat enjoys traveling with his wife (Karen) to a warm spot to play golf. Pat and Karen have three adult daughters, Deirdre, Clare and Tory, who still live in the Puget Sound area. As an active member of the Sumner Rotary Club, Pat also enjoys being involved locally and internationally in support of schools and food programs.

Pat Duffy serves as a WAMS mediator and arbitrator with expertise in the areas of serious personal injury, employment, auto accidents and UM/UIM arbitrations.

“I like people, I like stories, and I’ve heard many good ones over the years. I guess that is part of my Irish heritage.” – Pat Duffy

 

Mediator Focus: Cliff Freed

By: Penny Gans | WAMS Staff

freedCliff Freed, in jeans and a polo shirt on a non-mediation day, is a down-to earth, focused listener who would immediately put any client at ease. Cliff joined the WAMS arbitration/mediation panel in 1996 after completing mediation training at the University of Washington. A specialist in employment-related disputes, Cliff maintains an active law practice and has been a partner in the law firm of Frank, Freed, Subit, Thomas since 1986.

According to Cliff, modern employment law has grown out of the civil rights acts of the 1960’s and subsequent legislation such as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act. Cliff and his partners represent employees, labor unions, small business owners, and non-profit organizations in cases involving discrimination, harassment, wage and hour disputes, and disability rights. Cliff’s clients have ranged from the ousted CEO of a large hospital chain to a female police detective being harassed by her superior to the owner of a small day care facility who prevailed in a dispute with DSHS and is now the successful owner of six day care centers. Today, Cliff’s work as a WAMS neutral comprises roughly 20% of his practice.

Cliff believes that patience is an essential tool in mediation. Because emotion plays such a large part in employment disputes, the mediator must take the time to allow both sides to completely air their views. “Employment is a relationship not unlike a marriage,” explains Cliff. “People have an incredible emotional investment in their jobs and self-image is often based on the job. It is an especially traumatic event to lose a job, especially if the employee’s reputation is hurt.

Employers can be emotional too, believing they have been unfairly accused or that their efforts to address the employee’s concerns have been ignored – that ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’” In spite of the emotional elements of the cases, however, fewer than 5% of employment disputes go on to litigation. Nevertheless, at the end of a mediation Cliff often hears one of the attorneys say, “I never thought this case would settle.”

Cliff‘s journey from Brooklyn, New York to Seattle and WAMS illustrates the happy results of accepting adventure, excelling at new challenges, and being in the right car pool at the right time. After growing up, graduating from college and beginning a teaching career in Brooklyn, Cliff made a summer visit to a friend who was bar-tending in a Pioneer Square tavern. After ten days of hiking and Seattle sunshine, Cliff returned home, re-packed his bags, and came back to join his buddy in the bar-tending business. He later managed the tavern (music seven nights a week), worked as a DJ and sports reporter for a Seattle radio station, took the LSAT, and graduated cum laude from UPS Law School (now Seattle University), where he was Managing Editor of the Law Review. Cliff found his future law partners through a fellow student in his Seattle-Tacoma car pool and met his wife, Eileen, on a blind date arranged by her mother, another Law Review member.

Among his many other activities, Cliff lectures part time at SU Law School and is Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the King County Bar Association. He serves as a member of the Federal Pro Bono Screening Committee and is on the Board of The Homelessness Project, a non-profit agency providing transitional housing for homeless families in Seattle. Ten years ago, Cliff also discovered golf. He and his golfing group enjoy playing at many area courses and are looking forward to a trip to the British Open next year.