Southern California neutral Deborah Rothman relies on
her instincts to reach breakthroughs in even the most
acrimonious of cases.
BY ERON BEN-YEHUDA
Santa Monica neutral Deborah Rothman says she does
“whatever it takes” to convince parties that litigation
To break logjams, she relies not just on persistence
but, more important, on her intuition.
“This is why mediation can’t be taught,” Rothman, 52,
Following her instincts throughout her 10-year career as
a full-time mediator, Rothman recognizes when to use
reason and when to try a touchy-feely approach.
Late last year, a woman allegedly subjected to workplace
sexual harassment spewed an obscenity-laced tirade
against her employer during a mediation session with six
company representatives in attendance.
“My client just sort of, for lack of a better word,
flipped out,” Los Angeles plaintiff’s attorney Lisa Maki
says. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this won’t settle.’”
Ironically, the plaintiff, a parts clerk at an aerospace
company, wanted to keep her
job despite the alleged mistreatment she had
“I thought there was no hope [for an out-of-court
But then Rothman spent three hours talking to the
“Deborah calmed her down,” Maki says. “[Rothman] was
very professional and rational. She didn’t do that
Her client ended up agreeing to quit after Rothman
convinced her to look at the reasons for her resignation
as pluses, Maki says.
“I don’t know how she did it,” Maki says.
As an added bonus, her client received a greater than
expected settlement, Maki says.
In another recent case, Rothman took a different tack,
encouraging the two sides to blow off some steam.
A dispute had broken out between brothers whose deceased
father had left one son with a business and the other
two siblings with ownership of the land on which the
business was located.
The arrangement was a
recipe for disaster, especially because “the
brothers hate each other with unbridled passion,”
Westlake Village attorney Adam K. Treiger, who worked on
the case, says.
Rothman allowed the family members to vent about the old
days, such as when one brother would lock another in a
closet, Treiger says.
Unfortunately, her 20-hour mediation session couldn’t
resolve the decade-old conflict. But having the parties
open up emotionally helped break down barriers to a
settlement reached later on, Treiger says.
“I don’t think she failed,” he says. “I saw progress
made in 20 hours that I haven’t seen in four years.”
As a single mother raising two teenage daughters,
Rothman can tackle the toughest disputes.
“I guess you would call my teen-age daughters the final
exam in mediation,” she says. “If I cannot lose my
patience with them, then I’ve got the patience for
Even King Solomon would have been impressed with
Rothman’s stick-to-itiveness in a case from a few years
Verdicts & Settlements
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