Inspiring Peace in Others. Member Spotlight: Janet Autherine James-Mahon

Janet is a founding member of MBBI, and has spent nearly two decades resolving disputes, as an attorney, mediator and currently, as an administrative law judge. She is also a speaker and successful author of several books, two of which are collections of poetry. She completed her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Labor and Industrial Relations from Penn State University, her JD from Boston College Law School, and her LLM in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center

Career Path

Janet was drawn to the legal profession because of her love for dispute resolution. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Labor and Industrial Relations, she decided that she wanted to pursue a career in the mediation field, focusing on labor disputes; that dream led her to apply to law school. However, she’s quick to note that as an introvert, and as a peacemaker at heart, she had no desire to participate in big trials, but wanted to work with both sides to achieve mutually beneficial results. After several surprising career turns, including serving as the Deputy General Counsel for the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, she was appointed as an administrative law judge for the DC Office of Administrative Hearings, and began the conflict resolution work that inspired her legal career — listening to parties, mediating cases, and deciding cases. While working in Washington, DC, she became a certified mediator and was fortunate to meet the co-founders of MBBI. What attracted her to MBBI’s mission was the goal to collaborate with mediators from other countries. “I’m originally from Jamaica and as an immigrant who appreciates the international bent, I was so excited that this new organization’s goal was to reach beyond the local area and do peace-work all over the world.” She was invited to one of MBBI’s first member meetings and as one of the original supporters, she became a founding member. Although she relocated to Florida to serve as an administrative law judge for the federal government, she has maintained her passion for mediation and is still a proud supporter of MBBI.

Belief in the Transformative Power of Mediation

“The mediation process is a process of hope – hope that the anxiety and fear we feel (and often legitimately so) is not dismissed but given value, and our issues can be resolved in a way where everyone feels heard and seen.” Janet believes that sustained commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes is what we need to have long lasting peace in our society, and that we should all commit to supporting alternative dispute resolution until it becomes the norm.  That we have seen participants in a mediation come to the table with very different backgrounds and life experiences, at times bringing some anger and selfishness, but the basic tenants of humanity remains; everyone wants to be seen, heard and valued. “As a child who has always been quiet and introverted, I understand the importance of presence, and it excites me to bring my life experience to dispute resolution process, whether as a mediator or as an administrative law judge, in a way that may make a positive change is someone’s life.” She commends the current mediators and peace builders who have committed their lives and careers to achieving peaceful outcomes. She jokes that world peace is the goal of many but mediators and dispute resolution experts are walking the path daily; that’s the heart of the profession. Going out there and making the world a better place.

Mindfulness and Creative Expression

Janet believes that busy professionals need creative outlets, especially in often stressful fields such as dispute resolution.  Her creative outlets are writing and practicing mindfulness; she explains that she’s loved writing ever since she was a little girl growing up in Jamaica. “I wasn’t an extrovert, so I always expressed myself through writing. As a shy child, I’d make up numerous stories in my head. I was my own best friend.” Writing is therapeutic and it is a great way to share your life experiences with the next generation.  Her most recent books are: The Heart and Soul of Black Women and Island Mindfulness: How to Use the Transformational Power of Mindfulness to Create an Abundant Life. The latter is focused on women who are struggling to balance demanding careers, family responsibilities and community engagements, but need to create avenues for self-care, and obtain guidance on how to balance their lives. “It’s a guide for women who are feeling overwhelmed, stuck in non-productive patterns, and/or feeling as though they’re falling behind, or not fully fulfilling their purpose; it gives them encouragement to keep going – or to stop and find a different path because there’s no shame in that.”

As a mother of three boys, Janet is familiar with the pressure that women face when balancing their professional and personal lives, and tries to lend support through mentorship. “As I struggled, people would tell me I was a Super Woman – and in some ways all women are – but that doesn’t leave room for vulnerability and self-care, or room to ask for help when you need it. I want women to know that they can claim every part of their humanity – be strong and vulnerable at the same time, take up space, practice self-care, and still have a successful career that has a lasting impact in the world.” She believes that it is particularly important for conflict resolution specialists and peace builders who are venturing into stressful situations and who are expected to be the calm voice of reason, to find creative outlets to reduce stress, and to put self-care practices into place that will promote internal peace and well-being.

Future Engagement

Janet is also a member of the Rotary Club of Windermere.  Rotary International and MBBI are now established service partners, and have joined hands for numerous service projects.  She looks forward to contributing to projects, which are at the intersection of mediation and international peace building. She continues to speak on topics that are close to the heart of women, such as: How High Achievers Can Use Mindfulness to Create Optimal Work/Life Balance, and Achieving Peaceful Resolutions By Marrying Mindfulness and Emotional intelligence.

Article by Chloe Pan, MBBI Writer