Posts Tagged ‘Pepperdine’

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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Lee Jay Berman - med-150Hello and Welcome.  Please allow me to introduce to you my new blog:  Eye On Conflict.  I’m not the first mediator to blog, and I won’t be the last.  But like everything a good mediator does, this choice was well thought out and thoroughly researched before I embarked.

Beginning with the environment.  What you are seeing around this environment represents to me a lot about what I do as a commercial mediator.  At the top, the feather represents the light touch a mediator sometimes needs, as mediation is a lot about nuances, subtleties and a delicate touch.  And yet the coins represent the thing people are generally fighting over.  The pen indicates to me the ceremonious signing of the mediated agreement, which represents a person’s consent and their bond to adhere to the commitments made in that agreement.  The stone will always remind me of my dear friend Erica Ariel Fox’s Global Negotiation Insight Institute (GNII), as she uses it in her picture logo, and her teachings stay with me where ever I go, but especially in the mediation room.  The leaves relate to the acorn at the bottom of the page, where every great settlement – simple or complex – grows from the tiny acorn of an idea that often other people said would not work.  Kind of like a non-lawyer being a successful mediator working in the world of litigated cases.  Notice at the top how one is younger and rich in color, and the other is older and looks about to turn.  It is always my goal to mediate with the energy, stamina, wit and being the quick study of a young soul, but with the wisdom of a person seasoned with the years of a life in business, negotiating complex deals way beyond my years.  Given that when I began 15 years ago, I was a young-looking 32 year old, the first part wasn’t ever in doubt.  But I have always lived my live through the eyes of an 80 year old me, rocking on the front porch with a glass of iced tea in hand, looking back with the perspective of how my work this day, and the deal we reach, will be judged by me and others from that retrospect.

The dark wood represents the solid backing I have always had from my family, my friends, and from my loyal clients – often the lawyers who have trusted me with their clients most difficult disputes.  And the coffee stains at the bottom represent to me the many, many hours of hard work that have gone into creating my mediation practice, and that in a single day to any meaningful resolution.

This blog is intended to be a discussion, a dialogue with you, about mediation, conflict resolution, dispute resolution, conflict management and negotiation in settings from neighborhoods to workplaces to litigated cases to current events and global issues.  I welcome and look forward to your input, comments, additions, and disagreements.  Let’s talk!

My two themes, which you will find me repeating often throughout this site are:  There is no substitute for experience. And:  Tough issues call for masterful solutions.  I urge you not to underestimate either one.  And I hope, through the words that will follow in the days, months and years ahead, to provide both.

I will, from time to time, mention the training institute I founded in 2008, the American Institute of Mediation (the AIM Institute), and my radio talk show called Talk It Over.  I will do my best to avoid shameless plugs and only refer to them when there is a learning point or a resource that can be derived from them.  But I do hope you’ll check them both out.

One last thing, while I think my writing is conversational and easy to read, and grammar is generally OK, I’ll confess right now that just like when I drive my car, there are some rules I choose to follow and others I choose not to.  Case in point:  in writing, I choose to end sentences with prepositions, when it feels right to me.  There, I’ve said it.

I’m glad we could get a little better acquainted.  I hope you’ll stop by and visit again some time soon.

Until then,

Lee Jay

Lee Jay Berman
The Mediation Offices of Lee Jay Berman
Founder & President, American Institute of Mediation
Co-Host “Talk It Over” radio show
Complete C.V. and info at www.LeeJayBerman.com
More in mediation at www.MediationTools.com

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