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In October of 2015, ADR Systems welcomed Hon. Michael R. Panter, (Ret.) to our distinguished panel of mediators and arbitrators.  We interviewed our newest neutral to find out why he decided to become a neutral, and what advice he has to offer attorneys preparing for mediation.

Judge Panter has been involved in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for many years, both as a neutral and an advocate.  After retiring from the bench, Judge Panter joined ADR Systems so that he could continue helping attorneys and their clients resolve disputes outside of the court system.  According to Judge Panter, ADR helps people get where they will end up anyway in a more timely, cost-effective, and typically less frustrating manner. Judge Panter also expressed that having been an advocate in many mediations and arbitrations during his 30-year legal career gives him an intimate understanding of where the attorneys are coming from, and how he can help.

In addition to offering parties a faster and less expensive route to settlement, ADR also provides a forum for clients to address the non-legal issues of their case.  In mediation specifically, clients are not imposed upon by the framework of direct and cross examination.  Rather, clients may address the personal or emotional issues surrounding their dispute with the neutral or each other, if they so choose.  For example, Judge Panter said that one of the most inspirational experiences that he has had with mediation is when parties have resumed relationships that were once bitter and hateful after working together in mediation to resolve their case.

As a neutral, navigating mediation is a balancing act.  Neutrals must remain impartial at all times, but must also facilitate negotiation when parties are struggling to see eye to eye, added Judge Panter.  One obstacle Judge Panter faces in mediation is when parties do not realistically consider the strengths and weakness of their positions.  Having an unrealistic view of your case can slow negotiations and create hostility with the other side, potentially making the process less efficient.  One way Judge Panter overcomes this is by citing the jury instructions for the type of case being disputed.  Judge Panter noted that attorneys sometimes forget how hard it would be to prove their case in court.  Reading the relevant jury instructions aloud can get negotiations back on track by providing parties with a much needed reality check.

As for how attorneys can most effectively prepare for mediation, Judge Panter suggests preparing succinct submissions that clearly and concisely explain your position.  Judge Panter also suggests sharing at least part of your submissions with the other side.  Although it can be strategic to keep some information confidential, submissions can also be used as a persuasion tactic.  Judge Panter explains that well-prepared submissions can highlight the strengths of your case to the other side, making them more amenable to compromise and cooperation.

Judge Panter has more than 37 years of legal experience and has won acclaim for his settlement abilities during his time as a Cook County Circuit Court Judge.  While on the bench, Judge Panter settled a variety of cases, including medical malpractice claims, construction accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and commercial cases involving contracts, property damage, and fire subrogation.  Before becoming a judge, he was an active trial lawyer with his own law firm for about 30 years, and a full-time faculty member at DePaul University College of Law.  While at DePaul, Judge Panter founded DePaul’s Litigation Lab, a hands-on educational program for law students that has been the subject of many articles.  Judge Panter brings a broad perspective to his practice, having served both as a neutral and as an advocate in hundreds of mediations and arbitrations.  He is known for his thorough and intelligent approach to settlements and the boundless energy he brings to the dispute resolution process.

For Judge Panter’s full bio, click here.

For Judge Panter’s availability, click here.

ADR Systems, It’s Settled.™

My thanks to ADR Systems and their mediators for all of the successes that we have experienced in mediations.

Louis C. Cairo, Esq.Senior Partner, Goldberg Weisman Cairo