Having Difficult Conversations. Member Spotlight: Danae Woodward

Danae Woodward has worked as an attorney for 30 years and as a mediator for 15 of those years. She works in the employment sector, representing discriminated against employees and employers. She became a mediator in 2006 and continued working on discrimination cases. She considers herself an interest-based mediator, “I love any type of dispute resolution,” she said, adding that she feels it is a much better way of resolving issues and presents more durable outcomes. Since then, Danae has also been working with lawyers and students, training them on having difficult conversations. “I have been now focusing my career on all types of dispute resolution.”

Collaborating for Peace and Getting To The Root 

Danae plans on moving into the peer mediation and facilitation space, and she finds working with young people, particularly children, very rewarding. According to her, “Children are natural mediators. They are very curious,” which is an essential component of the mediation process, and an essential life skill to possess.

Civil collaborative law is also an arena Danae is heavily invested in and is working on taking it to North Carolina. This started in family law, but it is a dispute-resolution method which is expanding into the civil arena. In collaborative law, every party has a collaborative attorney who is trained in interest-based negotiation. She is also interested in early mediation and wants to increase this mediation practice outside of litigation. “Getting in before people are polarized and dug into their disputes” tremendously helps reduce conflicts. 

A great deal of the successes of collaborative law in the civil space can be attributed to the short duration of meetings. She finds that shorter sessions are more effective as the parties are given ample time to express their interests and needs and time apart to reflect and prepare for the next session. Furthermore, the fact that there is no threat of litigation plays a huge role in reaching favorable outcomes for all parties. Signing agreements that guarantee that litigation will not be threatened allows the parties to be more in control of the process, creates a less hostile environment, and creates more engagement in the process. “I really like the pace of this. And it feels more natural.”

Sitting with Our Emotions

In these civil collaborative sessions, “no problem-solving starts until all interests are addressed.” Attorneys also use this opportunity to guide their clients while still allowing them to take the lead. This way, parties also feel more comfortable sharing their experiences and crucial information. In addition to this, lawyers, who oftentimes present more challenges during the process as they tend to want all the information and approach it in a positional manner, become more collaborative. This allows the parties to effectively address their underlying issues as they become a collaborative team working towards achieving similar goals. 

At the root of all this is non-violent communication. Getting people to get more in touch with their emotions, and getting them to better express themselves without harming others, really plays an important role in resolving disputes. 

MBBI Involvement 

Danae Woodward has been a member of MBBI for roughly over a year and is still learning about the organization. However, the TRUST network really drew her in, particularly its involvement in voting rights. 

Moving forward, Danae is not limiting herself to one area of mediation and wants to continue training lawyers and peers. She hopes to continue more of this through MBBI. The co-mediator model, where different professionals, such as mental health and financial experts, are present bringing in their expertise, is also something she seeks to explore further.

Going Digital

With the constant evolution of technology, Danae also wants to take her mediation skills to virtual and social media spaces. Platforms like Zoom make this more feasible. And, for traumatized individuals, it gives them more comfort and safety as they do not have to be in the same physical space as their perpetrators, re-living their traumas. As she pointed out, “the point of this is not to re-traumatize people.”

For mediators across all levels, there are great resources out there, and The Global Collaborative Law Council is one of them. She is also a member of The North Carolina Civil Collaborative Law Association which she helped found.  The American Bar Association Collaborative Law Committee is another excellent resource. These are especially useful for parties seeking to work through deep-seated issues. 

Article by Jainaba Gaye, MBBI Writer