Mediator helps build common ground

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

“Compromise and resolution” was the advice of Abraham Lincoln – and is still the case today, notes Edmund Sikorski Jr., a civil mediator in Washtenaw County, based in Ann Arbor.

Sikorski returned to Michigan early this year after 7 years in Florida, where he was a certified circuit civil mediator and an appellate mediator, co-chair of the Martin County Bar Association ADR Committee 2015-16; and director of The Florida Academy of Professional Mediators 2015-16.

He is back on familiar turf in Wolverine territory, having owned Edmund J. Sikorski Jr. P.C. in Ann Arbor from 1987 to 2009; was a partner in Conlin & Sikorski from 1981-87; and a partner in Bonisteel, Bailey & Sikorski from 1971-81. Previously, he spent a year as an associate attorney with Jaques Admiralty, P.C., in Detroit.

Prior to his new role, Sikorski was an attorney for 40 years, with clientele that included a medical malpractice insurance carrier, condominium and commercial real estate developers, marina operators, estate planners, athletic associations, small businesses, insurance and annuity marketing organizations, foundations, coal and ore mining companies, and trucking industry related service and leasing operations. He also served as real estate and finance counsel to developers.

He now helps attorneys in active trial practice maximize civil case resolution by employing neutral mediation settlement strategies.  “It’s well known that in today’s legal environment well over 97 percent of cases are resolved at some point prior to actual trial – many of these cases settle through the process of mediation,” he says.

An emeritus member of the State Bar of Michigan and a member of the Washtenaw County Bar and member of the WCBA ADR section, Sikorski notes that mediators help build a common ground where both sides seek justice – which equates to fairness.

“A mediator provides the procedural fairness component necessary to create an atmosphere or form where people can feel that they have been treated honestly, openly, and with respected consideration,” he says. “Fair procedures are central to the legitimacy of decisions reached and acceptance of those decisions.”

He adds that different mediation strategies must be employed to match the case.  “Every mediation must be custom deigned for the subject matter and anticipate the human elements that accompany that particular conflict,” he says.

According to Sikorski, some dispute categories have re-occurring underlying themes.

“Probate and trust disputes tend to have a generous content of ‘Dad/Mom loved you more than me’ or ‘Dad/Mom did not love me (enough)’ – despite the fact the claimant did everything possible to cause or contribute to the family disenfranchisement,” he says. “Commercial disputes often start with the reoccurring theme that ‘someone did me wrong’ and that person or entity needs to be ‘gone dead and buried at any cost.’

“Both approaches also have in common that the scorched earth warfare approach will not only dissipate the parties, but also likely dissipate the assets or asset source over which the war of attrition is fought—the Pyrrhic Victory.”

Sikorski earned his J.D. from University of Detroit School of Law, and served as a law clerk at a workers’ compensation law firm through his senior year in law school and then as a research attorney for the Michigan Court of Appeals.

“Law school – at least in the late ‘60s – was where one ‘learned to think like a lawyer’ and not to necessarily ‘learn’ the law because you were taught how to find the law on any given topic,” he says.

His undergrad degree in psychology from the University of Tennessee comes in handy in his practice. “Psychology is basically the study of human behavior,” he says. “The practice of law and mediation necessarily deals with human behavior and that behavior’s propensity to engage in conflict. A legal system is usually designed to systematically deal with conflict and resolution – either by fiat or agreement. Mediated case resolution attempts to resolve conflict on terms that the parties can accept, live with, and move on with their lives rather than have a decision imposed on them by third parties.”

Even his work during undergrad, as a surgical and emergency room technician at hospitals in Detroit and Ann Arbor, was helpful earlier in his career.

“The technical skills learned were compatible with certain legal practice areas,” he says. “The first 10 years of my practice had a large case complement dealing with medical and personal injury issues.”

The Detroit native enjoys boating and fishing on the Great Lakes, and renewing his acquaintance with Ann Arbor, where he moved to from Detroit in1971 and raised his two daughters.

“As we all reach our senior years, there must be some internal clock that compels us to return to our roots – I’m no exception,” he says. “Living in a temperate climate is also compelling. The 90 degree-plus temperatures 9 months a year in the ‘retirement’ states is almost a compelling reason in and of itself to return to Ann Arbor from Florida.”
 

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