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Vickie Pynchon
Beverly Hills, California
Mediator and Arbitrator of Complex Commercial Litigation
Interests: Visit my blogs at and
Recent Activity
Lawyers are among the most cautious professionals in the world. They -- particularly those of us who prosecute and defend civil litigation -- see potential liability everywhere. Not only is this our JOB (to advise our clients on potential liabilities) but because we primarily see business relationships gone bad (like doctors who see only people with cancer or cardiac disease) we're on the paranoid side. I was a paralegal for Uniroyal's "captive" law firm in New York before I went to law school (this was the mid-'70s). I sat outside the door of the lawyer responsible for vetting Uniroyal's advertising. He was always shouting and hitting his forehead with the palm of his hand and pacing in his office ranting about the company's apparent desire to steer its ship into the frigid North Atlantic where the Titanic would encounter icebergs sufficiently sizable to sink Uniroyal's ship. As a conflict resolver, I know that you have to start moving people from the place they are at (worried about liability) and treat their concerns as serious and legitimate. Then I have to create a sense of safety for them if I am going to successfully move them past their positional comfort zone into the realm of interest-based negotiation. The psychologists call this the "zone of proximal development" - it is boundary line infants cross when they go from "ba, ba, ba" to "ball ball" to "BIG ball" and finally to "BIG BLUE BALL" with the mother clapping her hands in delight every time the baby moves closer to the goal. Mothers and infants are the most efficient and effective learning dyad in the world. Mothers do this reflexively, always encouraging, always creating a sense of safety and always with the reward of a mother's delight. Now, I'm no mom. But I do read books. And I shepherd litigators and their clients beyond their resentments, fears, and rage against their opponents on every working day. You cannot enter the room and say "o.k., you need to get over this; move past it; think about litigation costs and settle with your opponent." You (I) have to listen to the anger and the fear, acknowledge it, and suggest a small movement in the direction of the other. That's what all service providers have to do. Litigators and their clients are my WORK, not obstacles to my work. The same is true for people who help lawyers move past their fears of liability on what looks like an anarchic online world, free of the restrictions they're used to advising their clients to impose for maximum liability protection. All that said, I agree with you completely (as you know since I'm one of the anonymous attorneys you consulted with) but I no longer practice law and do not give legal advice anymore. So I am cautious, as well, about giving legal advice online. I am simply sharing my experience and, I hope, a little wisdom, because after 50, we're all in the wisdom business! Great post. Let's be gentle with lawyers who are as inexperienced with the internet as an infant is with the description of the thing he loves to play with - the BIG BLUE BALL!
This reminds me of an NYT Sunday Times article about a woman POW who was repeatedly raped by her captors during the first Iraq War. When asked by the NYT reporter whether she believed "toughness" training would have helped her cope, she asked "like practicing to bleed?"
On the many occasions across the course of a 25-year legal career, others suggested to me that I change my clients (the ACLU say) or change my specialty. I'd had enough different clients in my first five years of practice to know that those would not make a litigation and trial career better for me. I'd done a fair amount of pro bono work; worked for small business and large; represented injured plaintiffs; practiced real estate, intellectual property, personal injury, products liability, medical malpractice, antitrust and unfair competition cases, all in those first five years. What all of these clients and specialties had in common was the adversarial process, endless discovery, unprepared and uncaring judges (20% were GREAT & you know the rest) and fractious colleagues. As I was telling someone just today, if you are a litigator you must LOVE to win, I mean LOVE LOVE LOVE it and I did. Because if winning doesn't give you a THRILL it's just not worth the way the practice shanghais your life. Now, in retrospect, I see that 25 years of practice was my apprenticeship for mediating litigated cases, well worth the years.
I understand women's bullying is extremely painful because we can use our ability to empathize against our sisters, i.e., we know where the smallest pressure at the right spot will cause them serious emotional pain. Think middle school, Mean Girls and Heathers. Because we are all dual-natured, the traits that are our greatest strengths (support, empathy, reciprocity, community) are also our most lethal weapons (withdrawl of support, use of empathic knowledge against another, shunning, and, of course, gossip) I have been a bully (for which I've made public and private amends many times) and I have been bullied. In the bully-ring, men are playschool. Women are weapons of mass destruction. Let's harness that power for good and remember that we sink alone, survive through community.
Toggle Commented May 14, 2009 on Why Are Mean Women So Fascinating? at Deliberations
1 reply
There's no blog more deserving and yet you take the experience to praise others, which is just one of the reasons why Deliberations is in my all time top fave five.
1 reply