Attorney at Law Magazine Los Angeles Publisher Sarah Torres sat down with mediator Jason Harper to discuss his career and his plans for the future.
AALM: What drew you to become a mediator?
Harper: It’s the profession that embodied a lot of my personality characteristics. As the third of six kids in my family, I always had an inclination to be the peacemaker and communicator. The more I got into the field of law, I noticed that my instincts took me less toward advocacy and more toward seeing people work things out through my own neutrality.
AALM: What benefits do you believe mediation offers clients and attorneys alike?
Harper: Mediation is the form of dispute resolution that has the highest chance of resulting in a decision that everyone can live with and the power to heal relationships. For clients, they have a chance to resolve their dispute at a quicker pace and lower cost. Attorneys have the benefit of helping their clients get the true resolution for the cases. Litigation tends to speak in currency. Mediation, on the other hand, speaks in human interaction, healed relationships, and the chance for people to be made whole again.
AALM: What experiences in your career have taught you the most?
Harper: The experiences that have taught me the most are the cases where the dispute came down to phrases like “I just didn’t like the way that person talked to me that one day.” A lot of the conflicts I see have gotten to my level because people didn’t know how to positively address any miscommunication that happened and let the matter build to a level that doesn’t match the issue at hand. It’s those cases that have led me to tell disputants that conflict is inevitable, but combat is a choice.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?
Harper: Eventually, I’d like to train more mediators to handle special education cases. It’s an area that needs more attention because of the vulnerability of the people at stake in the dispute. My dream to see a mediator for every district and charter school in the country.
AALM: Tell us one of the best compliments you have received.
Harper: I suppose the best compliment was from a father after a mediation between a family and school district. At the end of the mediation, he turned to me and said, “I wish we had you for our divorce!” You never really know how to respond to statements like that.
AALM: What do you find most rewarding in your day-to-day work as a mediator?
Harper: On a day-to-day basis, my work varies between mediating, facilitating IEP meetings, and conducting trainings for district staff and families on how to manage conflict. As a person with professional ADHD, I love it! But more than anything, it’s rewarding knowing that my work is providing a positive impact for kids getting the education they need.
AALM: What events are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Harper: As a former president of the Southern California Mediation Association, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their upcoming fall conference. It’s an opportunity for mediators from around the world to come to Los Angeles and network, discuss practice development, and learn from some of the foremost leading minds in the field. I look forward to it every year.