The field of mediation and alternative dispute resolution has come a long way since Sue Stingley began practicing law in 1980. But she has not only made those areas work for her, she has also helped them become an integral part of settling legal tiffs.
Although about half her practice consists of representing plaintiffs in employment litigation, Stingley and her partner, Martin Ho, specialize in ADR cases.
Stingley’s interest in that area began about 30 years ago when she and veteran lawyers Leonard Lindquist, Michael Landrum and John Troyer began a mediation company in Minneapolis.
“Lindquist had taught me how to mediate when we were special masters on the Rajender class action of women faculty against the University of Minnesota,” recalled Stingley, referring to the landmark sexual discrimination case in which an assistant professor of chemistry accused the university of engaging in employment discrimination on the basis of sex and national origin after she was turned down for a tenure-track position despite being recommended for the position by several university committees.
“There were 450 individual cases. We knew we weren’t going to litigate all of them, so we mediated them to settle it.”
Following that case, the four partners went their separate ways. Although she has thrived in the mediation sector, Stingley said it hasn’t always been easy. For one thing, when the field first started blossoming, attorneys were expected to have substantive expertise in the area reflected in the discussions, rather than simply understanding the nuts and bolts of mediation.
Also, before the courts made the option of mediation mandatory, it took some twisting of arms to get attorneys to participate.
“They didn’t want to settle their cases,” Stingley recalled. “We had to convince them that coming to mediation could mean saving time for other work that might be more profitable. It was a very hard sell.
“People now can choose any alternative process,” she concluded, “but most people choose mediation.”