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Denise Madigan—Mediator Major

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Los Angeles, CAThere are lots of roles a lawyer can play—litigator, arbitrator, discovery referee—but the one role Harvard law grad Denise Madigan likes best is the role of the mediator.

And contrary to what most of us may think, most legal issues are settled outside the courtroom through mediation. "Well over 90 percent of cases do settle," says Madigan from her home office in Los Angeles. "It is a big myth that everybody goes to court. I think what a trained mediator does is help them settle earlier and the result is not going to turn out to be a lose-lose situation."

Madigan says she "cut her teeth with some significant mentors" in the early 1980s. She is referring to Larry Suskind and Jonathan Marks, two men well-known for their conflict-resolution skills.

"Mediation has all the psychological benefits that come with having resolved your own case. Rather than sitting there and being forced to listen to other people describe you and the events in ways you don't recognize, you tell your own story," says Madigan who speaks in a bright, articulate and breezy way.

"Plus there is the time and cost associated with litigation and trial," she adds. "The idea is the sooner you settle, the less time you spend on transaction costs."

Madigan has spent well over two decades doing mediation work in the US. She worked on the Microsoft anti-trust case as well as Enron legal issues. Recently, she successfully settled a $200 million complex mediation that she can only speak about in generalities. "It involved a mass accident, large public players, sophisticated domestic and international insurers, and a lot complicated issues surrounding liability."

"In the early days courts were resistant to mediation and so were lawyers," says Madigan. "Today it is a matter of routine in the majority of jurisdictions across the country. A young lawyer graduating from law school today is highly likely to be involved in mediation and only remotely likely to be involved in a trial."

A true believer in the benefits of mediation, Madigan says most cases, even the complex product liability cases against drug companies or car makers, can be resolved through mediation, with greater satisfaction on all sides.

Madigan's skills are in high demand. She spends several weeks every year in China where she teaches eager young students how to resolve international commercial disputes.

"I teach them skills associated with mediation and the western model or the western approach to mediation," says Madigan. "They are implementing their own version in China, and they are very interested in knowing how the two systems can be blended."

How can you find Denise Madigan? "Just Google me," says Madigan.

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