On Tuesday, I was honored to speak to a joint meeting of the Reitman Employment Inn of Court and the Garibaldi ADR (alternative dispute resolution) Inn of Court. Inns of Court are statewide groups with members from the bar (lawyers) and bench (judges). The Inns act as a more social way to have conversations between lawyers and judges about issues facing both (not about specific cases). It also serves as a place for younger attorneys to get mentoring. Inns usually cover specific practice areas. The Garibaldi ADR Inn of Court was the first such one in the United States.

These two Inns have an annual joint meeting. This year’s topic was mediation versus settlement conferences and how to prepare properly for each. While both are intended to settle cases, they do have distinct characteristics.


Mediation under court rules are facilitative and non-coercive. The mediator cannot suggest a solution. Mediations often happen early in cases and we drive towards understanding parties’ interests.

Case Settlement Conference

The courts consider case settlement conferences, run by sitting judges, adjudicative processes. The judges are evaluating each side’s case and place pressure on the parties to settle their cases. The judges may make predictions about how the trial may turn out or how motions may go.

Mediations have a high level of confidentiality while settlement conferences are less so.

I presented about mediation, what I’m trying to do as a mediator, how attorneys should prepare for the mediation, and how I can help them and their clients (and how they can help me do that). Retired Judge Terry Bottinell similarly presented for case settlement conferences. Following us, there were “fish bowl” demonstrations on preparing clients for mediations and settlement conferences, from both a plaintiff’s and defense’s perspective. Dean Burrell finished the meeting talking about settlements in arbitrations (and pitfalls of an arbitrator acting in a settlement capacity). Arbitrations are where an arbitrator acts as a private judge and make usually binding decisions for the parties.

The overall goal was to help attorneys better help their clients in both processes.

Thanks to Robert Lenrow for organizing the meeting and inviting me to speak. Further thanks to the Wilentz law firm for hosting the hybrid meeting.