By Natasha Dyer
Rachel Wohl was not always the strong proponent and practitioner of mediation she is today. For eight years she worked as a trial lawyer, during which time she served as lead litigator in three related, contentious cases in federal court in 1995. She attempted to negotiate a settlement, but the aggressive opposition had no interest in settling. Eventually, after many battles, the opposing side realized the weakness in their cases and suggested mediation. Rachel had no prior experience of the practice, but despite believing herself to be a strong negotiator, assumed mediation would also fail. To her amazement, the mediation proved so successful that all three cases were settled in two days. Additionally, she learned effective techniques she had never encountered before.
Realizing that mediation much more frequently leads to more positive and sustainable outcomes that work for both parties in dispute, as opposed to litigation, Rachel enrolled in Harvard Law School’s forty-hour mediation seminar. After completing several advanced courses, Rachel looked for a way to transition from law into mediation, but soon found she could not support herself solely as a mediator. There were so few mediations taking place in her home state of Maryland at that time, that only a few individuals were operating as mediators.
In 1997, having previously led a statewide collaboration to reduce family violence, Rachel authored a proposal for the Honorable Robert M. Bell, Maryland’s Chief Justice, asking him to lead a statewide multi-stakeholder dispute resolution commission. The purpose of this body would be to advance the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Maryland courts, schools, communities, criminal and juvenile justice programs, government and businesses. Judge Bell agreed and hired Rachel to direct the process. [Read more…]