Roger Kramer: Granting People the Space to be Heard

Roger Kramer
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Roger Kramer approaches mediation from the perspective of a facilitator and a veteran trial attorney. With 27 years of experience representing both plaintiff s and defendants in a wide array of civil matters, he has seen the best and worst of the litigation system. When he opened Kramer Law LLC in 2008, he did so with a vision of creating a mediation practice that would grant people the space to be heard in a way that may not occur in a jury trial.

True to his youthful aspirations to be a lawyer, Kramer left his home in Erie, Pennsylvania to earn his law degree at Hamline University School of Law. During his first year of law school, he met his wife, Jennifer O’Gary Kramer, and they established their life together in Minnesota, raising two daughters in Mendota Heights. Kramer proved a formidable trial attorney and was a partner at a Minneapolis law firm where he successfully tried numerous civil and appellate matters. He is certified as a civil trial specialist and, among many other honors, has earned a Martindale-Hubbell AV-Preeminent peer rating.

While working as a trial attorney, Kramer began mediating cases referred to him by his colleagues in 2004. “My first mediation clients were all lawyers that I had cases against in the past. They respected my focus on the real issues in lawsuits.”

As his experience in mediation increased, Kramer saw an opportunity to provide clients with a means of resolution that granted them greater control over the outcome. “I’ve represented individuals and corporations on both sides of cases and had a significant number of jury trials,” Kramer said, “but I’ve never had a client say, “Boy, this trial was exactly what I wanted or expected.” Even though I consider a jury trial the ultimate expression of democracy, I love mediation because it provides the parties with the ability to control their destiny and be heard.”

Today, Kramer Law LLC is a full-service mediation practice with a family feel, overseen by Kramer and his wife and business partner, Jennifer. “She practiced criminal law, then owned and subsequently sold a CLE company, and then was a stay-at-home mom. She has a wealth of legal, business and life experience she brings to the table. Our combined expertise and our shared devotion to excellent service means that I can give our clients the same hyper-focus I would put into my trial work.”

There’s more to the family business. “My niece, Rachel, works as our legal assistant. She does a great job with scheduling and any accommodation that people need. We are proud to do everything we can to make sure the lawyers and their clients are comfortable before and aft er they arrive.”

Kramer Law’s office has a traditional but warm feel, with lots of windows and natural light. It occupies two floors equipped with multiple conference rooms, so that Kramer can handle multiparty mediations while ensuring that all parties feel secure and comfortable. “I handle a lot of cases involving significant injury or wrongful death, or cases where there is a lot of acrimony. They are oft en highly emotional, and the ability of both sides to be heard is vital. We create an extremely safe environment here for everyone, one that encourages discussion and the freedom to make decisions.”

Kramer is a discerning and compassionate facilitator, who listens to the lawyers and their clients, free of judgment, with a goal of openly exploring all avenues for resolution. “Like trial work, mediation is a contact sport. Even in commercial disputes, people walk in with all different emotions and positions, and there is no right or wrong in how a person feels. When people feel a certain way, we need to figure out why. What are the issues? Oft en, this is what leads to a resolution. Once we pull the veneer off the situation, there are no limitations to explore a case. Both sides can explore and say things they never would be able to say at trial.”

Kramer’s past litigation experience, as well as his current knowledge of jury verdict trends in Minnesota and across the country, enables him to provide expert guidance about the risks and benefits of pursuing a case through trial. “I have an evaluative mediation practice. While I am always respectful of every party and lawyer that comes in for a mediation, I use my advocacy skills in talking with both sides about the strengths and weaknesses of their case. That exchange will at least open them up to see the risk, and risk analysis tends to settle cases. I have settled many cases that the parties deemed impossible to negotiate. But for those cases that don’t settle, my goal is the parties and counsel come out of the mediation knowing more about their case and the position of the other side. Mediation should never be considered a waste of time if the case fails to resolve.”

Although he has been mediating for many years, Kramer is always working on improving and fine-tuning his facilitation skills. He recently completed advanced mediation training at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He is also an invited member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. These activities have helped his professional development, but he claims that learning transcendental meditation several years ago significantly elevated his skills as a mediator. “Meditation makes you mindful. It clears all the clutter in your mind. It allows me to be a more focused, effective listener. Lawyers tend to think more about what we want to say than what we hear. But what we hear in mediation is vital in helping the parties achieve resolution.”

As a small business owner who has gone from working for a large firm to solo practice, Kramer has discovered what he believes are key factors in successfully managing the business of law. “I have learned the importance of allowing change to happen and embracing it. When I graduated from law school, I thought I would litigate until I retired. Letting go of the ‘trial warrior’ badge was not easy at first. Leaving a firm and partnership that I liked and starting a solo practice was a huge leap for me. As the father of two daughters, ages 19 and 21, it has been really hard at times to see them become young adults and let them go. Change is not always easy, and I can be too cautious from that standpoint. But I am fortunate to have a partner who has helped me not only to welcome change, but also appreciate the present. And the bottom line is that I love my work; I love mediating cases. I truly believe that when you love what you do, success will follow.”

A thoughtful and practiced neutral, Kramer is committed to giving clients their say while offering impartial guidance. “When people come here for mediation, their issues are paramount. We are here to thoroughly examine all of them, and each side is always guaranteed respect and the opportunity to be heard.”

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