Insights from a Dispute Resolution Pro

From left to right: Helene Bernstein (Member, NY State Council on Divorce Mediation), Kenneth Feinberg (Special Master, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund), Susan Ingram (Member, NY State Council on Divorce Mediation)

During the month of October, people in the U.S. and abroad celebrate the field of dispute resolution in all its many forms. On October 8th, I participated in a kick-off event at the NY City Bar Association for Mediation Settlement Day 2013.

The honorary chair and keynote speaker was Kenneth Feinberg, Esq. Mr. Feinberg’s name will be familiar to many. He served as Special Master of the U.S. government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Since then, he has overseen other well-known funds established to compensate victims of mass tragedies in the U.S., including the BP Gulf Oil Spill Fund, the Sandy Hook Newtown Fund and most recently, the Boston One “Marathon” Fund.

In describing his work as Special Master for these funds, it was clear that Mr. Feinberg also relied upon his well-honed mediation skills to guide the difficult conversations he needed to have with the victims and families involved.

He also had much praise for the mediators in the audience, who he referred to as the “laborers in the vineyards” – those who tirelessly help couples (and other clients) address multiple and complex interpersonal issues – guiding them to come up with their own unique solutions so that they can move on with their lives.

I especially appreciated Mr. Feinberg’s response to the question, “When you are under great stress with your work, what do you do to take care of yourself?” Stating that he was a classical music lover, he said he found great solace in attending live classical concerts. He also admitted that he was often so tired that he would fall asleep during the concert! As a classical music lover myself, I often listen to music when I’m working alone in my office. I find it calming – and it seems to help me focus better on my work. And I must admit, if I’ve had a stressful day, I too sometimes nod-off at an evening concert.

All in all, Mr. Feinberg’s description of his work was very inspiring and reminded us of the many challenges and rewards inherent in the mediation profession.

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