Do Mediators Need to be Liked by Clients?

I had an interesting experience this week. Plaintiffs were a group of 7 women who were terminated for reporting issues of wage and hour violations by their employer. Although they were several different ethnicities, they were all about my age. Their lawyer was a man at least twenty years their junior. After awhile, the lawyer confided in me that his clients did not want me to return into their caucus room, because each time I did, I delivered more bad news from the employer and shared my own concerns about the strength of their case. Generally, I pride myself in my ability to make connections with clients so that I can gain the trust I think I’ll need to conduct the negotiation on their behalf. This time, the case settled at about 8:00 PM, for more money than they anticipated they could get–and I never walked into their conference room from about 3:00 in the afternoon until 7:30 PM–when I came to deliver a mediator’s proposal. Although I was slightly insulted by the message from their lawyer, in this case it worked well. He was able to point to me as “the bad guy” who he was (successfully) pushing to do more and better. This made a very young lawyer look very tough and experienced to his older clients. 

The question is: do we really care if we are disliked by the clients or is that, in some way, our role? As parents, my husband and I often played “good guy, bad guy”. Is this just another form of the game that can be effective if necessary to deflect responsibility for overselling the case?

Jan SchauComment