Monday profile: Brian Pappas

Ann Arbor resident Brian Pappas is a (self-styled) overeducated (BA, MPP, JD, LLM, and almost PHD) mediator and professor at Michigan State University’s College of Law, where he serves as Associate Director of the ADR Program and teaches a variety of mediation and negotiation courses.  He is a member of the State Bar’s ADR Section Council, serving as the chair of the Section’s Government Task Force.  He is also on the board of the National Association for Community Mediation and is co-chair of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution’s Law Schools Committee.  He is a SCAO approved civil and domestic relations mediation trainer and mediates and facilitates a variety of disputes involving governments, non-profits, companies, and private individuals.    

 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
 
Residence:  Ann Arbor
 
What advice do you have for someone considering law school?   Talk to lawyers, shadow lawyers as they work, understand what lawyers really do, and make a decision based on a complete knowledge of both the great and tough parts of the job.  The world can always use another good lawyer!    
 
Favorite Ann Arbor hangouts:  Sugar Bush Park, RoosRoast, Grizzly Peak, Crazy Wisdom, and Angelo’s.
Favorite websites:  Right now it’s ayearofproductivity.com, a blog chronicling one guy’s year of productivity experiments   
 
Favorite app?  Stop, Breathe & Think (a mindfulness/meditation app), Fleaflicker (for fantasy football).  
 
Favorite CD:  Anything Beatles, Motown, or AC/DC    
 
What would surprise people about your job?  I work more hours than I would if I were a practicing attorney.  
 
What do you wish someone would invent?  A way to get money out of politics and a government that will act to stop gun violence and global warming.  
 
Why did you become a lawyer?  I wanted to make a positive difference. My Uncle Ed’s professionalism and character were very influential in my decision.   
 
What’s the secret to being a good mediator? There is no ‘secret’ but the listening skills required to facilitate a conversation are skills to develop, not something anyone is born with.  Perfect practice makes perfect, not just practice.  Even after my third training, I was not selected to volunteer at the Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution.  Who gets rejected from volunteering!  It forced me to do the right things to ensure my skills were at a high level.  My trainings are designed to help aspiring mediators overcome those challenges.   
 
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been?  Robben Island in South Africa.  Former prisoners who spent decades imprisoned on the island now work there providing tours in order to educate, inspire, and make a living.  
 
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
Consistently hit a golf ball straight.  
 
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?  Failure is a big part of, and leads to, success…go for it! 
 
What do you to relax?  Spend time with my wife Debbie and my sons Charlie, three, and Ben, five months.  
 
If you were starting all over again and couldn’t go into law, what career path would you choose? Play by play/sportscaster  for any of Detroit’s pro teams. 
 
What’s your biggest regret? Not accepting an invitation from Teach for America after college. 
 
What’s one thing you would like to learn to do? Say no.  Once you get to work doing what you love, it’s very hard to set limitations.
 
What is something most people don't know about you?  I can do political imitations and multiple accents.  
 
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? A founding father (to get some answers), Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, and any of my grandparents.  
 
What’s the best advice you ever received?  Life can only be lived in the present moment.  
 
Favorite place to spend money:  John K. King Used &?Rare Books in Detroit.  
 
What is your motto?  You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what it is.
 
What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Either:  “Good father, son, husband, teacher, and peacemaker”  or  “I told you I was sick.”  
 

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