Independent Century City neutral Stefan M. Mason found his niche in the late 1980's when, as plaintiffs counsel in a sexual harassment action, he witnessed firsthand the power of an effective mediator to accommodate the needs and interests of all parties to a dispute.
The claim of Mason's female client in that litigation hinged on whether she
had given timely notice of the harassment to management.
Encouraged by the mediator to simply relate her
story, the plaintiff looked at one of the partners in the defendant law firm and asked him directly, "Don't you remember I told you about this?"
As the partner indicated that he
had no such recollection, Mason's client proceeded to quietly recount the detailed circumstances surrounding her
As Mason recalls, when the partner's brow furrowed and he
began to nod his
head affirmatively, "the case was over.
Concluding that all the lengthy depositions, extensive discovery and cross-examinations could not have achieved the breakthrough that had been accomplished in those few minutes, Mason
realized that the focus and direction of his
career had taken a turn.
"I knew then and there," he
says, "that I had found my true calling.
From that point forward, I wanted to be the peacemaker."
Now a full-time neutral specializing in labor and employment relations law, Mason
spends the majority of his
working day in mediation, devoting the remainder to arbitration.
And based on the assessment of attorneys utilizing his
dispute resolution services, he
is singularly well-suited to the role.
has all the requisite personal qualities of a "peacemaker": tact, empathy, patience, credibility, integrity, shrewdness, tenacity and creativity.
possesses an infectious equanimity that creates the dispassionate climate in which conciliation and compromise are possible.
Attorneys describe Mason
as one who "works very, very hard and keeps all the parties talking.
also able to instill confidence in the litigants.
makes the parties think he
is listening to them, because he
employs a "shuttle diplomacy" technique that is marked by separate, ex parte conferences geared toward "collapsing" the parties' pent-up anger, resentment and anxiety; the relating of "war stories" aimed at providing litigants and counsel alike with a "reality check" on their expectations; and a refusal to abandon the notion that all legitimate disputes are susceptible of resolution.
Inviting the litigants to "vent and feel they've been heard.
believes that "the major purpose of mediation is to calm down the parties."
Apart from his full mediation and arbitration schedules, Mason finds time to serve as a Fellow of the recently formed International Academy of Mediators.
The International Academy
is a group whose goals include organizing a worldwide dispute resolution network and establishing a uniform system of qualification and certification standards for mediators.
He is also a visiting lecturer at UCLA's School of Law and is a California State Bar lecturer for MCLE credit in employment discrimination litigation.
Mason is a certified mediator and arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association, and an arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Bar Association's client relations and fee disputes program.
Additionally, he is an active member of a wide array of professional associations, advisory committees and scholarly councils and has au®thored a string of legal treatises, practice guides and handbooks on employment law.
Born May 10, 1939, in Maywood, California, Mason
overcame a decidedly rocky start in life when, at age 15, he
was expelled from high school and found himself jobless and homeless.
Despite those obstacles, he
was able to obtain a full academic scholarship at Dartmouth College
After graduating in 1962, he
lived on Mt. Kilimanjaro for two years, teaching high school English, mathematics, drama and soccer in what is now Tanzania.
juris doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law in 1967, where he
was inducted into the Order of the Coif, served as the Law Review's editor-in-chief and was nominated by the faculty to serve as law clerk for then U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Though Mason was invited to clerk for Justices Roger Traynor and Stanley Mosk, financial considerations compelled him to work as an associate attorney with Munger, Tolles, Hills & Rickershauser in Los Angeles immediately upon graduation.
"I think a lot of social good has been done in the country by civil litigation in the employment field," Mason
said during a recent interview.
"It's had the beneficial effect of improving labor conditions in terms of enhancing workplace safety, minimizing employer harassment and fortifying job security over the past 25 to 30 years, especially in the nonunion setting... [and] I think it's been the fear of litigation that has served as an impetus for employers to really get their act together and treat people fairly."
Having presided over his first mediation in early 1993, Mason is now a full-time neutral, serving as a mediator in "about 95%" of his cases and, by choice, as an arbitrator only "from time to time.
Judging from the impressions of attorneys familiar with his
style, approach and efficacy, it may fairly be said that Mason
is a neutral with a unique aptitude for the art and science of peacemaking.
Paraphrasing writer Joseph Campbell, Mason
himself observed: "If you want to lead a life of grandeur, you find out what activity makes you blissful and you follow your bliss; I feel that I've found that bliss in mediation."
Stefan M. Mason, Los Angeles, California (310) 286-7671 firstname.lastname@example.org