Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Pam Whitmore who recently joined Eckberg Lammers as a shareholder, attorney, and Rule 114 Qualified Neutral to discuss her new position and the path that led her to it.
AALM: What drew you to Eckberg Lammers?
PM: The reputation of Eckberg Lammers not only as excellent lawyers but also as a creative team, coupled by their proven track record of offering creative problem solving and value added services for clients really drew me to the firm.
AALM: What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
PM: Someone recently told me that the unique combination of services my practice provides put the “counsel” back in counselor. That is what I am looking forward to happening with my role. Being able strengthen or heal organizations and relationships – both public and private – through customized and wholistic problem solving.
AALM: What drew you to the practice of law and to the role of a neutral?
PM: I was drawn to the practice of law when I was in an eighth grade social studies class that set up a mock city for a week and I was picked to be the attorney. My interest in the role of a neutral developed much later after I started reading and learning about an alternative to litigation or traditional mediation which involved facilitating a dialogue between groups or individuals in conflict to help them learn perspectives, understand their own communication styles, understand the value in listening and work together on solutions. Once I started doing this work, the reward of seeing people find commonality and working on sustainable solutions together made me fulfilled.
AALM: Tell us about your experience working for the League of Minnesota Cities. What was one of the best lessons you learned from your time there? How will you bring that knowledge to your new role?
PM: The League of Minnesota Cities and the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust is an outstanding organization that goes above and beyond to support their members – the majority of which, as you may have guessed by their name, are Minnesota cities. My time at the league offered me great professional development as well as increased knowledge and understanding about the vast legal issues and policy considerations of municipalities. In addition to this, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust saw value in how conflict resolution and management can lead to better decision making, improved leadership and also benefit workplaces. One of the best lessons I learned through my work is that every person’s feelings and underlying interests are real and important and, more often than not, with the help of an expert facilitator, those at odds often can find commonality or, at a minimum, feel heard, so they can work together on moving forward toward a solution that is more sustainable and satisfying.
AALM: Tell us about any mentors you’ve worked with through your career and the best advice they shared with you.
PM: Honestly every place I have worked, I have encountered one, if not more than one mentor. One piece of advice that I often remember, though, was from Jon Iverson who was a founding partner at Iverson Reuvers where I worked as a litigation attorney. One time, when I was particularly annoyed about an interaction with another attorney, he reminded me, “You never know what kind of day they have had or what is going on in their life.” That always makes me pause, not assume malintent, take a breath, be respectful and use empathy.
AALM: How has COVID affected your practice? What changes has it forced you to adopt?
PM: The biggest impact from COVID was learning to facilitate group dialogue or conduct the more traditional mediation work I do via computer. There was a very fast learning curve on tips, techniques and the best software to keep people engaged and committed to the process.
AALM: What are some of your personal career goals? What’s the next milestone you’re looking to achieve?
PM: I would like to expand my suite of customized conflict management solutions services such as, conflict management, conflict coaching, engaging in difficult conversations, workplace trainings, strategic planning, priority setting, leadership and governance – to not only help all types of municipal and public clients, but also to help make workplaces in private businesses healthier and more collaborative.
AALM: Tell us a little about your life outside the office.
PM: My husband of nearly 30 years and I have three adult kids that keep us on our toes, make us laugh, and are more interesting and doing way cooler things than their parents. Honestly, we like to be boring and find great joy in walking our muppet-like bernadoodle, playing golf, cooking dinner for our kids and friends, or just reading a good book.