“I have been privileged to witness the light of awareness in people’s eyes when, through learning mediation, they realize their own empowerment to solve the issues at hand.”
In a career that spans more than 30 years, Lynn Cole has learned to recognize this awareness as an essential tipping point in the process of fostering community-driven peacebuilding. Among many pivotal roles, Lynn has served as an AV-rated trial attorney, an assistant United States attorney, a founding member of the Florida Dispute Resolution Center, a USAID mediation specialist, and the second MBBI President and Board of Directors Chair. Today, she is a full-time mediator, mediator trainer, and the CEO/President of BRDGES Academy, which is the first e-learning platform for building mediation discourse and cross-cultural competency for conflict resolution professionals.
Litigation and Mediation
Lynn recalls that her foray into the “legal world” came when her ninth-grade teacher initiated a classroom mock trial. With a smile, she described, “I was tasked to perform a cross-examination of one of my peers, and I remember loving it.”Lynn went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland followed by a Juris Doctorate from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. In her first professional roles as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and, later, with the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida, Lynn supported the government and private clients while developing a practical understanding of the importance of procedure, evidence, and lines of questioning. However, she noted, “It was clear that litigation did not solve everything.”
When she became Chair of the Civil Justice Reform Act Commission, Lynn explored various applications of alternative dispute resolution. This led her to recommend that the federal judges in Florida begin using mediation in their civil case management. Although no other federal district at this time had done so, Lynn’s idea prompted the founding of the Dispute Resolution Center for the Florida Supreme Court where she earned a leading role. “I became one of twelve people in the state of Florida to help start the center, and it was a reward to see other districts and states around the country follow suit.” Eventually, Lynn wanted to become a mediator herself. She sought out advanced certification programs through the Florida Supreme Court, Harvard University, and the International Mediation Institute in The Hague, garnering a perspective and skillset that would ultimately define her career.
Working with USAID
Lynn then launched into a thirteen-year span of assignments with USAID in Bulgaria, Jordan, Kosovo, and Sri Lanka where she facilitated trainings and partnerships to design and maintain court-related systems of mediation. She served alongside local judges, attorneys, mediators, and community representatives, which solidified her passion for this work. “At its heart, mediation is a peacebuilding tool carried from the community-up,” she said.
In moments of great challenges, such as when she was serving in post-war Kosovo, Lynn was able to reflect on the core of this process. Specifically, she noted, “If you can get both sides in a disagreement to hear, just a little, there comes an understanding that it took two to buld the conflict, and only a deep awareness of each other’s perspective will fix it.”
In this Globalized World
Among her recent accomplishments, Lynn has represented MBBI as President in a formal address the United Nations and she continues to advocate for and perform extensive global trainings on three main practice areas: commercial and court mediation, transformational mediation, and community mediation. She launched BRDGES Academy as a virtual education platform to help boost the accessibility of mediation training and to meet the needs of this globalized world. “Learning how to navigate cultural differences and sensitivities is important for all practi0ners in dispute and conflict resolution today,” she explained. BRDGES Academy is constantly expanding to adapt to present dynamics.
Lynn spoke with conviction about the role of MBBI as well — “MBBI is a leader. It does not compare to any other organization in terms of having people on the ground, and it is the basis of my philosophy on how to build and grow mediations throughout the world.”
Article by Juliana Heffern, MBBI Writer