My name is Rebecca Carroll-Bell; I call myself the Everyday Mediator because a lot of what I do, and the tools and techniques I teach, are just as useful in everyday life as in formal mediation and conflict resolution scenarios.
I have always been a peace maker. I am always the one to try to find common ground, to negotiate and find a way to please everyone. Yes, I am a people pleaser. Working as a litigation lawyer this sometimes baffled my more adversarial colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, I can and do advocate fiercely when it comes to the crunch; but wherever possible I like to find a consensus and only fight over what is really in dispute. I would rather deliver a concise, laser-focussed argument about the things that really matter than spend half my time in petty point scoring and one-upmanship.
I became a lawyer in 2003, working first at a plaintiff personal injury firm and later at a generalist firm. I defined myself as a litigator – it didn’t really matter what the dispute was, I’d litigate it. After moving to Melbourne from Sydney, in 2011 I went to work at State Trustees, where I was working with vulnerable Victorians, fighting to protect not only their assets, but their dignity and wellbeing.
A lot of the work I was doing at State Trustees was in and around will disputes. Our clients were often grieving over the death of a loved one, while at the same time doing battle over the estate. I believe I saw the best and the worst of people in those cases. Anger and pain radiated off those clients, and underlying that was often a feeling of helplessness and futility. Many clients felt there was nothing they could do to protect and preserve their loved one’s memory, or indeed to control what was happening to them. They were stuck on a merry-go-round of lawyers, courts and expert reports.
What I learned during my years as a litigation lawyer was that:
– Most people want to be heard;
– Most people want to have their experiences and feelings acknowledged and validated; and
– Most people want to feel in control of their future.
Mediation gives them this opportunity to have all of this and more. Finally, here was something I could do to help relieve the tension felt by parties to court cases. Instead of having their cases drawn out for another 6, 12, 18 months, here was a way to short circuit the whole process.
And that is how I fell in love with mediation.