Mediation World Loses a Patriarch

Author: Lee Jay Berman

Richard Millen

I am deeply saddened to announce that Richard Millen passed away today.  Most mediators in southern California knew and were touched by Richard, whether they knew it or not.  He was a motive power in forming the first court-annexed mediation program in California, in founding the now-mighty Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA), and served on boards and committees advising on mediation policy until his last months.

Richard was 89 years young and was one of those whose inspiration created organizations that have become pillars of the southern California mediation universe.  He was the motive power that helped to create the first court-annexed mediation program with the Los Angeles Superior Court (now the largest court and largest mediation program in the world).  He was a trainer with the Neighborhood Justice Center, now Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) and a division of the Los Angeles County Bar (an adoption he never sanctioned).  Richard trained under Bill Lincoln and was atop the training tree, training Bill Hobbs, who trained anyone who ever trained in Los Angeles outside of Pepperdine (me included).  Long before he taught at Pepperdine Law School’s Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution and California State Dominguez Hills’ Master’s program in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, and with me at my Institute of Mediation Studies (previous incarnation of the American Institute of Mediation), he held mediator meetings in his pool house – meeting’s we’d probably call round tables or study groups today.

Richard also sat with Randy Lowry, Lauren Burton and others at a retreat that became the birthplace for the Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA) over 20 years ago, where leaves as a “Board Member In Perpetuity”.  He meant so much to SCMA that they named their annual Peacemaker of the Year award after him, along with Ken Cloke.  He served on about every organizational board in southern California, including DRS and the State Bar’s Standing Committee on ADR.

Many of us were trained by him, influenced by him, and heard him speak at conferences, as often from the audience as from the front of the room.  A deeply spiritual man, with vigorous energy and strong beliefs about how mediation should remain “pure” and uninstitutionalized, he continued to mediate cases at 88 years of age.

Richard was one of the first interdisciplinary-trained mediators.  A Harvard lawyer, his studies to become a more complete mediator began by reading books by Krishnamurti, Ken Wilbur, Ram Daas, Martin Buber, Alan Watts, Brugh Joy, Jerry Jampolsky, Eric Frohm, quantum physicists, such as Frejof Capra and Alan Wolf, and continued to include the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bhagavad Gita, and by Da Free John, the Knee of Listening, and by Gary Zuchav, the Seat of the Soul.  He then dove into reading about Buddhism, Zen, Dao, the Kabbalah, Christian mysticism, the Dali Lama, the occult, Freud, Jung, William James, Elizabeth Kubla Ross, and Virginia Satir.  When Richard was asked, “Isn’t that really more spirituality or philosophy than mediation?”, he would answer, “What’s the difference?  They’re all the same!”

Richard preached that mediation was “a new epistemology of thinking and speaking about conflict” and “Conflict emanates from a break down in relationship of the parties”.  He’d say that people didn’t have legal problems until they gave them to a lawyer.  He preached the fundamentals (some might say lost art) of mediation – active listening, reframing, I messages, neutral language and self-determination.  He often proudly quoted a poem by Tap Stephens that ended with “…and they did for themselves what they had come for the mediator to do.”  He believed strongly in “Dialogue” as defined and used by quantum physicist Dr. David Bohm.

Richard called himself a half-lawyer, half-entrepreneur, having served the majority of his professional years as a transactional lawyer “doing deals”.  He prided himself on being a trusted fiduciary, and loved when his clients would say, “Just ask Good Ol’ Dick Millen.  If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me”.  He started in business at the  ripe age of 10 with a paper delivery route.  Living in Knoxville, he graduated from the University of Tennessee, and then it was off to the army where he prided himself on his days in the cavalry, stationed in Italy during World War II.  When he returned, he took full advantage of the GI Bill by attending Harvard Law School.  His stumbling into mediation some 25 years ago was more due to his spiritual enlightening and personal growth as a natural outgrowth of his business and legal backgrounds, than it was a career choice.  Mediation chose Richard, more than the other way around.

Richard is survived by his wife, Mary Alice, four adult children, several grandchildren, and a community of thousands of mediators scattered throughout southern California and well beyond.

Richard was my surrogate grandfather, my mentor and my dear friend.  When I last visited with him about three weeks ago, and he told me of the cancer, he said he was being “positive and creative” in his approach to dealing with it – being a mediator to the end.

Richard liked to quote Blaise Pascal, a colleague of Decartes, who wrote, “the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of.”  This was Richard and his huge, knowing heart.  Teaching us until the end.

We have lost a great peacemaker, a passionate teacher, and a bright, glowing spirit.  His presence will be missed.


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36 Responses to “Mediation World Loses a Patriarch”

  1. Mediation World Loses a Patriarch « Commercial ADR Says:

    […] Mediation World Loses a Patriarch Mediation World Loses a Patriarch. […]

  2. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    For more, also please read this excellent post by Vickie Pynchon:

  3. Lee Jay Berman's EYE ON CONFLICT » Blog Archive » Mediation World … · Legal News – Your Source for Legal News and Advice Says:

    […] Original post: Lee Jay Berman's EYE ON CONFLICT » Blog Archive » Mediation World … […]

  4. Mari Frank, Esq, CIPP Says:

    Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Richard- I hadn’t seen him in a while but I loved him and spent many hours with him when I sat on the first Board of the Southern Ca. Mediation Association and we enjoyed retreats wtih the Alliance for Holistic Lawyering. He was a great mentor, wise and loving- generous with his time and inspirational. Thanks for puting up this blog- we hope to make a tribute to him at the OC Mediation Conference on March 19 in Orange County. Truly we lost a great leader in the mediation movement- and a dear soul- but I know he is already sharing his wisdom, love and mediating skills on the other side.

  5. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    from reader Marcia Haber via facebook:

    When I first spoke with Richard about the idea of focusing on ways to educate and provide mediation for families, elders and caregivers, he said, “of course, I’ll work with you. When do you want to meet.” He then recommended that we speak with Harcourt Hervey. Then the conversation grew into what is now the ARMS not for profit organization. Richard… See More was clear about community mediation and the power of being “present” in providing the process. ARMS now exists because of his early support with a focus on multi-disciplinary consumer education to make mediation more accessible. It is with great love and respect that I express how much I will miss Richard and how grateful I am to have known him. His legacy lives on.

    Thank you, Lee Jay for letting us know and for honoring Richard in life. You, Ken and Harcourt always took the time to learn, teach and be with Richard as dear friends.


  6. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    From reader Ken Cloke via email:

    I’m sure what Richard would want would be for each of us to look inward into ourselves and allow our memory of his heart and spirit to guide us towards our own inner truth. Let’s pledge, each of us, to let him live by renewing our commitment to what he stood for so beautifully and joyfully.

    Love to all, and to you Richard.


  7. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    from reader Jim Madison via email:

    Richard will be sorely missed. As John Wayne’s character said in “The Quiet Man,” “He was a good egg.”

  8. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    Please feel free to visit’s front page, and our memorial page to see their posts on Richard, his life and his contribution to the field at

  9. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    from reader Greg David Derin via email:

    I was very sad to learn that Richard passed away yesterday. I really loved and admired Richard. Richard was really a great, great man and will be missed.

  10. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    posted by the Los Angeles County Bar Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) board and staff on

    Richard Millen’s passing is a profound loss to the mediation community of Southern California. He joined the board of the Neighborhood Justice Center of the Los Angeles County Bar Association at an early stage in its development and its subsequent incorporation as LACBA Dispute Resolution Services. He gave his counsel to the board for many years. His was a strong voice for community mediation performed by volunteers trained in facilitative mediation. He saw clearly that mediation was an alternative to litigation practiced in court, and, although a lawyer himself, decried the imposition of legal strategies on mediation. He consistently advocated the core of best mediation practices and support for mediation of all types of disputes with expertise in mediation techniques rather than knowledge of the law. At a time when boundaries between arbitration, mediation and litigation are being debated and challenged, Richard’s voice will be sorely missed.

    from Los Angeles County Bar Association Dispute Resolution Services Board of Directors and Staff

  11. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    posted by Jim Melamed on

    It is a shame that it often takes death to focus appreciation.

    Richard was there “at the beginning” of the modern mediation movement. He deserves a good measure of the credit for stimulating the growth of mediation in Southern California.

    I remember Richard from afar in Oregon as one of the early mediation mavericks. Plainly an open and creative mind, Richard had great enthusiasm for good ideas and little patience, at least outside the mediation room, for foolish notions. He was a pragmatist that made a big difference.

    Richard was eader and mentor to hundreds over decades. His work and spirit will now surely spread through those he has influenced. We are most fortunate to have had Richard Millen as a leader helping to grow mediation.

    Jim Melamed, CEO

  12. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    From Darren Lee, Executive Director, California Academy of Distinguished Neutrals via email:

    Very sorry to hear this, my condolences to you all on the loss of a friend and mentor.
    I’d be happy to put a notice and the tribute up this coming weekend for the monthly news update at

    It’s a terrific tribute to a lovely chap who will be sorely missed.

  13. Mimi Lyster Says:

    I would join Lee Jay on this. I have fond memories of working with Richard that stretch back to the late 80s and he will be missed!


  14. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    From Doug Kruschke via email:

    Richard has been a dear friend for 25 years. I was privileged to be at his side as he moved from his old world into a new one that took the form of mediation. As most all of us know, however, it was not mediation that came into Richard’s heart. Rather it was a deep sense of love and goodness and a desire to enable people to tap into this in themselves and others, even in the midst of apparent conflict. Mediation provided Richard a vehicle to share this way of being with others so they might be touched by it as well. He absolutely loved doing this. I honor him for his heartfelt dedication, courage and integrity and his being a dear friend and colleague. Richard is in my heart and will always be. He was, indeed, a very, very good man.

    Doug Kruschke

  15. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    From Dennis Sharp via email:

    I am so sorry to hear this sad news. Richard was a lovely gentleman, most of all, and one of our most loyal and hard working ADR professionals; he truly cared about the essence of what we do and walked the talk like few others. We’ll miss his warm friendship and insights.

  16. Lee Jay Berman Says:

    From Greg Stone via Twitter:

    Even some of us who came more recently to the profession were touched by the kindness of Richard Millen.

  17. Public Relations NYC: Nature Of Work Says:

    […] Lee Jay Berman's EYE ON CONFLICT » Blog Archive » Mediation World Loses a Patriarch […]

  18. jerry jampolsky Says:

    […] power of love and … Jerry Jampolsky, author of Love is Letting Go Of Fear and founder of …Lee Jay Berman's EYE ON CONFLICT Blog Archive Mediation …… Ram Daas, Martin Buber, Alan Watts, Brugh Joy, Jerry Jampolsky, Eric Frohm, quantum … Name […]

  19. Mike @ mediation Says:

    He won’t soon be forgotten thanks to all the great work he has done. So many associations and groups were started and inspired by him, he has changed so many lives directly and indirectly.

  20. Lee Jay Berman's EYE ON CONFLICT » Blog Archive » Saying Goodbye to The Great Teachers Says:

    […] gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate the life of our dear friend and mentor Richard Millen (see Mediation World Loses a Patriarch).  My friend Phyllis Pollack wrote a wonderful summary of that night in her […]

  21. Lee Jay Berman's EYE ON CONFLICT » Blog Archive » A moving mediation conference in Los Angeles Says:

    […] start to the day.  The morning began with a Moment of Silence for our dear departed friend Richard Millen that included his son Jeff saying a few words on his behalf, followed by the awarding of the new […]

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