The Mediation Times

 

Fairly Legal – A Watershed for mediation?

by Amanda on January 23, 2011

This week saw the broadcast of a new US TV show called Fairly Legal. It features a rather gorgeous young woman called Kate who has given up being a lawyer to become a full-time mediator. Kate is simultaneously at odds with her stepmother who is trying to keep the family law firm in business following the death of Kate’s father.

The show has generated a huge amount of commentary from mediators – as you might imagine – ranging from wails of woe about the errors in process to whoops of  joy at our profession finally making it to the TV screen.

For those of you outside the US who would like to watch the programme and indeed, take the test to see if you are likely to be an “effective” mediator (yes! they use the word effective) you can watch it on the USA Network web site. You will need to have the latest version of Flash to watch it.

So is this going to be a gift or a curse to mediation?

Well, it is a bit cheesey in parts, and some of the approaches would not be what you might teach new mediators, but on balance I believe that making it to TV is all good and something of a watershed if only “fairly legal” in representing the profession.

We might end up saying, “well, it is nothing like Kate on TV you know!” and that’s OK. How different will that be from having to educate parties about what actually happens as opposed to what they have assumed happens?

I would rather be talking to many more people who now know that mediation exists.

Watch the pilot and let me know what you think.

And if you take the test… how did you do?

ps I just LOVE her shoes.

9 comments
Michael
Michael

First off, What is it with the f@!*&ing shoes! I've read several blog post about this show and 3 of them mention her shoes! I don't get it. (Oh, wait...I'm a man...)

Second--after watching the how I was more in the camp of --this has almost nothing to do with mediation. Except maybe the robbery scene where Kate did a great job of uncovering underlying interest. But then I thought, 3rd--maybe the public is getting some idea that at least the profession exist--that's good. And 4th Well, they are at least talking about mediation and the star is incredibly gorgeous... I guess I'll watch it again...

Joe Markowitz
Joe Markowitz

It was interesting that the robbery mediation was the most realistic mediation on the show. The two main mediations were resolved with the kind of tricks that are so common on lawyer shows. But the robbery mediation represented a genuine assessment for both parties of the costs and risks of their alternatives to a negotiated outcome. It was also a good illustration of the moral dilemmas of mediation. The writers must have realized that some people would be offended by the idea of letting the robber get away with stealing a small amount of goods, instead of receiving the punishment that the law would have said he deserved. So they created some moral ambiguity by letting us know that the store owner was gouging its customers, and had the mediator, and the audience wondering who the real thief was.

And I'd like to comment on the shoes, but I wasn't really watching Sarah Shahi's shoes, I must admit.

Katri Kytopuu
Katri Kytopuu

I see your point, but :-) the solution was Kate's, and the one who was robbed didn't really have any other choice that to be robbed?

Katri Kytöpuu
Katri Kytöpuu

I watched first 15 minutes and then I couldn't watch more. My main reason to negative feeling is perhaps that it feels like here in Finland, that people think, that our legal system is similar to the system in american tv-shows. And it isn't. So sometimes the biggest barrier to come to mediation is, that people really think, they are going to get loads of money from court. There are enough prejudices of mediation already, so merely making the word mediation known isn't enough for me.

But in the same time I admit, that I should probably watch the whole show, maybe 15 minutes wasn't enough :-).

PS. Kate did negotiate non-violent result to the robbery, but it was still a robbery, wasn't it?

Amanda
Amanda

You are right Katri and I wish it were a better version of the truth. And yet isn't the mere fact that it has become interesting enough to make a TV programme about, positive? Tipping point - comes to mind. Whether we like it or not, TV is the way a significant majority of people learn about things and without significant investment in the promotion of mediation I don't see how it is going to become main stream by request, rather than mandating it or making it even more of a legal process.

Ideally the first programme would have been something we could use to promote an authentic version of the process. In some regards it is a missed opportunity.

Katri Kytopuu
Katri Kytopuu

If fact messing fiction and facts is probably having a bigger effect in the future than we think and this show isn't the only one doing it. I have been reflecting, why that 15 minutes seemed so negative to me. Maybe because, my branch of mediation is victim-offender and it's done mostly when the case is yet in police investigation . So one main point is that the offenders take responsibility of what they have done, victims get recompense (which they are satisfied with) and that offenders might think twice in the future, before commiting another crime.

By the way, the test said that I would be a magnificent mediator :D :D.

Amanda
Amanda

Another great point Katri!

You have brought to my mind a consideration of the expectations mediators have of the work we do and that it should make a positive difference. I say that is what attracted us to the profession in the first place. The transformative side of mediation is a big attraction especially as much of that kind of mediation takes place where it has the greatest opportunity to provide the greatest benefit to society. Transforming behaviour for example, as in the mediation you do.

In commercial mediation, it is possible to have a transformative effect; the opportunities are held open and yet it happens less and less where mediators just go straight to the numbers or are more directive. They would say, that is what the clients want (and the mediators don't want to disappoint.) I say, if the parties haven't mediated before and even if they have, why hire us if they don't want the skills that we offer?

In a way we already have a conflict in actually doing mediation the way it works best and that in part is fanned by the custom of inexperienced mediators, mediating to get their practice going and not having the confidence, experience or perhaps desire to resist the pressures to hurry the process, or make it something else.

All big questions!

Jan Schau
Jan Schau

Count this American woman mediator as in agreement! The shoes, the leather skirt and the priceless impromptu mediation at the coffee bar when a would-be gunman threatens to rob the place and our heroine steps up and negotiates a couple of cases of beer for a non-violent exchange! Loved it!

Amanda
Amanda

Indeed Jan! The bit I liked was when the bar owner insisted on charging her for the coffee - can't complain about that not being representative!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katri Kytöpuu and Amanda Bucklow, Jason Dykstra. Jason Dykstra said: Fairly Legal – A Watershed for mediation? http://bit.ly/dKjdcl @amandabucklow [...]

  2. [...] a mediator” (read it…it’s good). Also, you can read Amanda Bucklow’s review on Fairly Legal here or Lynsee Swisher’s post over on ADRhub.ca [...]

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