Why I’m optimistic. Particularly for the future of mediation.

By any standard, 2020 was a challenging year. It’s a year nearly all of us are glad to see in the proverbial rear-view mirror. At the same time, it could be argued that there is a positive aspect to the legacy of 2020 — because, on one level or another, we all love challenges. Challenges “show us what we are made of.” They test us. And on one level or another, we all rose to the challenge in 2020.

In my own practice, after two months of shutdown / lockdown, we changed and adapted. Virtual mediations became the norm. In August, I conducted a two-week arbitration in Chicago. We took everyone’s temperature daily. We wore masks. We had the room cleaned each evening. We made it work. Life went on.

By the end of 2020, we were conducting in-person, Zoom, and combination in-person / virtual mediations as if we’d been doing it that way forever. Again, we made it work.

In my personal experience, mediation outcomes were as consistently successful in 2020 as they’d been in prior years — and for that, I have a lot of excellent lawyers, support staffers and clients to thank. You all figured out how to meet the challenge. It may have looked different from “traditional” mediations, but it still worked.

All of which is why, as we move into 2021, I’m feeling genuinely encouraged. I think 2021 will be a good year. At the very least, it has to be a better year than 2020, right? Sure, there will be more challenges and more unpredictability. But we’ll figure it out.

Think of all the things we figured-out, in very short order, last year: Working remotely, wearing masks in public, social distancing, using hand sanitizer and brown-bagging instead of eating out — to name just a few.

Yes, the challenges will continue. And for those of us who lost friends and loved ones, 2020 will be a hard year to put behind us.

This early in 2021, it may still feel to you as if nothing has changed; in which case, I’d challenge you to ask yourself: “What have I learned?” For me, the answer is: “We can do this. We will do this” — whatever “this” is.

I want to wish you, your family, and your firm a healthy, prosperous and safe new year. I hope to work with you on your mediations and arbitrations this year. And yes, I’m confident that, together, we’ll face the challenges of 2021 and make it work!

Enjoy the journey.