Kindness at the Center of Mediation. Member Spotlight: Yale I. Jones

Yale is a retired lawyer, mediator, and a member of the Rotary District 5520. He joined the Taos Milagro Rotary Club in 2006. He has served as the Assistant Governor and Lieutenant Governor for the north area of his Rotary district. In Rotary, he has been involved with the environmental sustainability and peace action groups, also serving as the chair for the Group Study Exchange, the District 5520 Peace Committee and the Paul Harris Society committee. He stated, “I was inspired by the Interact Club students in Peru working towards a common goal and wanted to get involved with Rotary.” 

Philosophy of Life

His life philosophy has embodied the rotary spirit and principles on kindness, compassion, generosity, humility, and service. He subscribes to the Dali Lama’s words that state, “My religion is kindness.” According to Yale, every act of kindness matters, and every act of compassion lives on in the lives of others. This life compass began early on in his childhood and career. Action and awareness are central for change. However, practicing kindness throughout the way is the bridge. 

Education and Profession 

Yale received his undergraduate degree from Stanford and his juris doctor from UCLA and was admitted to the California Bar in 1966. One day, he was invited to a small brown bag luncheon with Martin Luther King Jr. He stated, “just listening to somebody like him was inspiring and it led me to enter the Peace Corps after graduation from law school.” He served in the United States Peace Corps in Kenya for two years. During his time there he learned about the Luo tribe’s ‘soft approaches’ to conflict resolution. 

He stated, “I learned a lot, especially how they resolved conflict. They did not have a culture of blame, which was reflected in the language.” For instance, if someone broke a vase, they would not say, ” ‘Sir, I broke the vase’ or ‘Sir, Onyango broke the vase.’ ‘It would be the vase became broken.’ ” For him, mediation came to embody a very important cultural component underlining that one must try to understand from a place of respect. 

In his career, Yale has had strong mentors and been humbled by clients. He stated, “I was in the right place at the right time.” When he came back, he entered the private practice of law in San Francisco with Bill Donohoe, and together they founded the firm that today is Jones Clifford. He was a certified specialist in workers’ compensation law, is the former chairman of the California Board of Legal Specialization and prior to that was the chairman of its Workers Compensation Advisory Commission.

Community Service and MBBI 

Yale has served on the boards or advisory boards of several local non-profit organizations since moving to Taos. Additionally, he was a board member of the Nepal Youth Foundation for over a decade, until 2012. For 12 years Yale has been a “Big Brother” to a now 20-year-old young man through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern New Mexico. He stated, “I am still on the Board of this organization and [emphasized], I did not preach to my little brother or give unsolicited advice.  When he became a junior in high school, he began to ask me for advice. My first response was, “What do you think?” He also reported learning a lot from his ‘little brother’ by stressing that dialogue is not a question of age, rather a question of how open one’s heart is. He compared this feeling to mediation with a focus on listening. He stated, My father used to say that nobody ever learned anything while they were talking.” Therefore, for Yale, one must have an open heart and the ability to listen because if one does not listen, one will miss out on the opportunity of understanding the deeper concerns at play. The same message resonated with Yale when he heard a presentation from Ken Cloke, motivating him to join MBBI early on.  As advice for mediators that are starting and expert ones in and outside MBBI, Yale stated, You have to take time to ponder your own actions and words and help the parties to truly listen to each other. 

Finally, Yale stated, “Early on, my life purpose was to make a living, be a good and supportive father, a caring husband, to serve my clients honestly and well, and to treat others with respect. As I became older, I learned that everything one does has echoes in the lives of others.” Yale does not necessarily have a goal of saving the world, but rather of pursuing positive actions on a daily basis. He further stated, “People who don’t consciously think of gratitude are missing out on a lot. Thus, you must keep your heart open.” 

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer