Known as one of the first mediators in the Atlanta area, James “Jim” Stewart has established a busy mediation and arbitration practice at BAY and has served as a neutral throughout Georgia in more than 2,800 cases. Since 1986, he has served as a neutral in cases involving Catastrophic Injuries, Complex Litigation, Multiple Parties, Nursing Home Negligence, Medical Malpractice, Professional Negligence, Tractor Trailers & Automobiles, Wrongful Death, Premises/Dangerous Conditions, Defective Products, Insurance Contracts & Coverage, Business & Real Estate Contracts, Business Dissolution, Employment, Water Runoff, Libel & Slander, and Workers’ Compensation.
Jim is respected by many for his friendly personality inside and outside of mediations, and his diverse career that enables him to mediate a variety of cases. He recently shared a glimpse of his life inside the office and his insights on mediation.
What made you want to become a mediator?
Early in my career as a claims adjuster, I met individuals suffering from all types of serious bodily injury, which ranged from being involved in significant cases stemming from Auto/Truck Wrecks, Medical & Nursing Home Negligence, Food Poisoning, Defective Products, Worker’s Compensation, etc. It soon became very clear to me that resolving these claims shortly after the event occurred was a huge benefit, not only to the injured person and their family but my insurance company, as well. It was always my goal to evaluate and resolve every case as fairly and as quickly as possible.
When I started practicing law, as both a defense lawyer and then a plaintiff lawyer, I again realized the savings and benefits to all parties, if a dispute could be resolved quickly and fairly. Because of my background on both sides of the “v,” Tom Tobin and Lloyd Hoffspiegel asked me to mediate my first case with their company, United States Arbitration & Mediation in 1986. As I mediated that first case, I know it may sound strange, but I felt that I was “called” to be a mediator – to help others resolve their conflicts – and set my course to respond to that “calling.”
What accomplishment or position are you most proud of on your resume?
As one of the attorney coaches for the Northview High School (Fulton County) Mock Trial Team, I am most proud of the students (ages 14 – 17) who I have met, worked with and observed, as they study and practice Mock Trial for endless hours. Over the last eight years, our team has been a very strong competitor, having won many regional, district, and state competitions, culminating in one State Championship victory, leading to 2nd place in the United States. When they graduate, it is exciting to see them succeed – even exceed – in their individual dreams and goals because of their involvement in Mock Trial.
Why do you believe mediation is an important process?
Mediation is a very important process, not only to the parties involved but to the Georgia Court System and to every taxpayer in Georgia. Our courts are backlogged with both civil and criminal cases. Every case that can be resolved removes that case from the system. Whether the case is pre-suit or suit has been filed, thousands of cases are resolved in mediation every year.
How would you describe your mediation style?
When I mediate cases involving parties who are friends, families, and business partners, I use a more “Facilitative” style, if appropriate. However, even in some of those cases, relationships are already destroyed, and no party wants to repair it – they just want to be done with the dispute and never see the other person again. In my mediations, all parties are represented by able and sophisticated attorneys. There is seldom a relationship to mend or continue, so, overall, I would describe my mediation style as “Facilitative-evaluative,” because I support the positions of all parties and empower them to make their own decision, with the guidance of their counsel, but also help them evaluate their overall case.
However, that is where I deviate from the true definition of being an “Evaluative” mediator. While I do test all party’s strengths and weaknesses by asking pointed questions, I generally do not give my opinion or personally predict the outcome of a case, unless a party specifically requests that I do so. With my style, I believe that my clients get the best of all mediation worlds: a mediator who supports their individual positions, empowers them to make their own decision while assisting them in a fair and reasonable evaluation of their case and what the future holds for it.
Is there a specific mediation specialty you enjoy the most and why?
Having handled Medical Negligence Claims with a major Malpractice Insurer, serving as a defense lawyer for a local hospital, representing plaintiffs injured by medical providers, and mediating more than 100 Medical/Nursing Home Negligence cases, I find these to be the most challenging specialty that I mediate.
What do you think sets BAY Mediation & Arbitration apart from similar mediation and arbitration firms?
The owners of BAY show that they care about their clients by adding to their team mediators who handle a very large range of claims in areas such as Personal Injury, Business Litigation, Construction, Domestic, Employment & Worker’s Compensation.
They provide the best facility in Georgia – maybe anywhere – which currently includes more than 20 conference rooms fully equipped with the best accoutrements any mediation company could have, including electronics and large screen TV’s in every room and a kitchen. Soon, Bay will have completed a 4,000-square-foot addition, adding another ten fully equipped rooms, bringing the total rooms to 30. The massive addition will include conference rooms that can seat up to 60 people at a time.
What are your top three personal values?
As an individual, and as a Mediator, I consider these as my top priority values to be the three T’s: Tolerance, to invite people in; Trustworthiness to relate to them; and Thoughtfulness, to develop a relationship. As a mediator, I also strive for compassion, commitment to service, creativity, and fairness.
What is your favorite book?
Acres of Diamonds, by Russell H. Conwell, a minister and the founder of Temple University, and two hospitals that never turned away a person in need.
Basically, the theme of the story is that each one of us is placed on Earth with the primary purpose of helping others – and we must find our own contentment, start where we are, and find true wealth right in our own backyard.
Do you have a favorite quote or philosophy on life?
Appreciate all that you have, practice contentment, and begin where you are.
If you could change something in the world, what would it be?
Make the intolerant tolerant.
What characteristic do you most admire in others?
A personality that draws others; the ability to speak & have others listen; and, the ability to say the right things that help others wherever they happen to be in life at the time.
When in your life have you had a “now or never” moment?
I have actually had two “now or never” moments.
After I graduated from Law School & passed the Georgia Bar Exam, I needed to decide whether I wanted to continue working as a Claims Professional or begin my own law practice. It was a conundrum – turning in a steady insurance company salary for an unknown quantity of a new Law practice was a huge decision. The time felt right, I made the jump, and I have not looked back since!
The second time was when I decided to leave my law practice and go into my mediation business full-time. Again, leaving a steady Law practice with many clients and stepping out into my part-time mediation business was fraught with many unknowns. Nevertheless, it again felt right, & has been one of the best decisions of my life.
What advice would you give to a client who is seeking the right mediator?
Know your case, know your client, know yourself, and know your opposition. Understand the “style” of mediator you need to accomplish what your client needs. Once chosen, tell the mediator what you and your client need them to do for you during the mediation and do not kick the mediator out into the hall while you and your client talk. Invite the Mediator to participate in your entire caucus – it can help you get the most service out of your mediator and the best results for you and your client.
Founded in 2002, BAY Mediation and Arbitration Services, LLC, is one of the fastest growing alternative dispute resolution companies in Georgia. Our panel of neutrals consists of arbitrators and mediators with diverse backgrounds, and styles, who provide practical solutions in a variety of civil litigation areas. A majority of our neutrals have at least 25 years or more of legal and/or judicial experience, have tried numerous cases and have been involved as litigants and neutrals in thousands of cases. We provide efficient, effective and quality dispute resolutions services. For more information or to schedule a mediation or arbitration with our neutrals, call our scheduling coordinator at (678) 222-0248 or by scheduling online at www.bayadr.com/scheduling/. We look forward to meeting your needs as well as the needs of your clients.