2000-10-12 / Community

Mediation: Alternative to litigation Oak Park man helps opposing parties reach common ground

Acorn Staff Writer
By Debbie Sporich

Mediation: Alternative to litigation
Oak Park man helps opposing parties reach common ground


Attorney Keith A. Schulner
Attorney Keith A. Schulner

Instead of tying up the court systems, Oak Park resident Keith Schulner, 34, has embarked on what he believes to be a more civilized and efficient way to resolve issues — through mediation.

His company is Waterside Mediation and Consulting, and you can visit him via computer at www.watersidemediationandcon

sulting.com.

Schulner has lived around here all of his life.

He attended Yorba Buena Elementary School and graduated from Agoura High School in 1984. He graduated from UCLA as an economics business major and continued his education at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles where he graduated in 1992.

After six years of practicing law, Schulner quickly realized that a lot of his cases were going to mediation and decided to become a mediator.

Through dispute resolution, Schulner had represented more than 50 clients including a high profile group of cases that mediated over months instead of years.

Schulner said the way it works now, anybody can call himself a mediator, but he wanted to commit himself to the practice of mediation, so he went back to school and got a master’s degree in dispute resolution (MDR) as well as a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).

He was the first person to combine a master’s in dispute resolution with a master’s in business administration.

He chose Pepperdine not just because it was a local university but because Pepperdine tied with Harvard as the No. 1 dispute resolution school in the country.

Pepperdine offered him a full scholarship to the business school based on his Graduate Management Aptitude Test scores (GMAT) which was a 770 out of 800.

"They said 730 is considered to be in the top 1 percent," Schulner said.

He was a graduate assistant working with James Goodrich, the dean of the business school and Randy Lowry, director of Pepperdine’s Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution to help them create this new program that combined the two degrees.

"They had the MBA program and the MDR program, but they had never combined them before," Schulner said.

Schulner believes that in adding an MBA to his MDR degree he’d be in a much better position to help businesses with more sophisticated financial or business disputes.

He said it could be dealing with a dispute with a business or it could be a divorce in which the couple owns a business. Or it could be something with a future stream of income that becomes potentially lost.

"It gets complicated with present value and future value, and a lot of attorneys don’t have the best grasp on that," Schulner said.

Schulner explained that the difference between a mediator and an attorney is that an attorney represents his client to the best of his professional ability, but a mediator helps all parties come to a resolution that they can agree on.

"So an attorney fights and a mediator basically mends the fighting," Schulner said.

One of Schulner’s high profile cases in the 1990s was written up in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and Money magazine and was publicized on CNN and NBC television networks.

It involved Dr. Melvin Rosenstein, who claimed he could make men’s organs bigger and longer, but according to more than 50 of Schulner’s clients, it didn’t work well.

Of course Schulner isn’t at liberty to discuss the case but said they did reach a confidential settlement.

Another example of successful mediation was an unmarried couple who had purchased a house together. They were separated and had to decide what to do with the house.

"They knew if they went to court, they were probably going to have to sell the house and pay the sales commission and pay capital gains, and neither one wanted to do that. They both actually wanted the house, but they were going to have to spend many thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to get through the court process. We settled the case in less than three hours," Schulner said.

He said mediators charge basically the same rates as attorneys, but in mediation it’s not a win-or- lose situation, and nothing can be forced upon you like in arbitration or in a court trial.

"In the courts or arbitration, somebody decides what will happen, and there’s a winner and a loser. If you go to mediation, you get to decide what happens to you, so you have to agree with the decision," he said.

Schulner said even in situations where an agreement can’t be reached, it’s still better to have at least tried mediation.

"You can cut down the items that you will fight about," he said.


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