Litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolution and New Beginnings

As the newest member of the SLSG, I am very excited to be joining a group of professional, dedicated, and knowledgeable sport consultants. I began my career in a full-service firm in Toronto, where I was fortunately exposed to various types of law. For years I have been a litigator, spending countless hours in trials, motions, discoveries, appeals, and general preparation for court proceedings. Throughout this time, my perspective had shifted significantly to recognize my own personal and professional growth. I had children, spent a few years living in the United States, and watched as my career path took several turns I didn’t see coming.

At the start of my career, I saw conflict everywhere … people at odds constantly, whether it was over children, a property line, or a relationship that just didn’t fit anymore. This witnessing of constant conflict can take its toll on the human psyche. I have witnessed firsthand the utter destruction of relationships, families, and people in general, that a long, drawn-out court battle can impose. The downside is that in the end, usually only one party is successful. As a representative and advocate, it’s difficult to not feel the effects of an amazing victory or a crushing loss. Then there are the cases where clients were successful beyond their wildest dreams but alas, the victory was hollow, as they were unable to collect a monetary judgment for various reasons.

For this reason, I believe that there are many instances we can assist parties in a resolution outside the courtroom. With Covid-19 having us re-imagine everything, even our legal system is finding new ways to deal with the backlog and limited court resources.  I personally believe that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is the way of the future. With mediation, opposing parties can decide, with assistance, how their dispute will be resolved, instead of having a judgment imposed. I see this as a positive step forward and one of the reasons why I am so excited to be joining the SLSG.

I believe that the sport community will benefit from continuing to embrace the important role of ADR. Here’s one story to illustrate the point. When I was a law student, I was extremely fortunate to observe one of the top litigators in Toronto bring together two bitter opposing parties for a mediation. I was surprised at first, thinking litigation and mediation were mutually exclusive. Though these parties were at the beginning of what was sure to be a very long and expensive battle, the mediator was able to take an emotionally charged situation, tone it down, and create an environment where both parties were speaking the same language. It was truly something to behold. Not only did they come to an agreement about their dispute, they actually left together, shaking hands and chatting like old friends. Over the years I’ve watched equally skilled mediators, at various tribunals and in the courts, and these talented facilitators never fail to amaze me. Equally astonishing is that I feel even more victorious and that justice was done for my client when they have a say in the outcome of their dispute, than if they are completely successful in court. And when mediation is successful, there is decreased chance of further acrimony down the road, fewer appeals, and less re-occurrence of the same issues. When it works, mediation creates an opportunity for a third way to emerge that is unavailable for those caught in an adversarial approach. I believe that a willingness to mediate demonstrates a commitment to understand the other party’s position and move away from your initial, but often partial point of view. Often, this openness creates a shift in the conversation which facilitates a new solution.

I’m currently becoming certified as a NOVA Profile practitioner which I know will assist me in my practice; both with more efficient and effective communication with my clients, and with the opposing counsel, facilitators or adjudicators. I believe that many problems can be resolved or lessened in severity with improved communication, and a willingness to stay open and learn from past experiences. Our current times require us to be more skillful and compassionate in our interactions with each other. I much prefer a more collaborative approach that leaves us with our dignity intact. I say this both with respect to sports, the courtroom, and the legal landscape in general.

Joining the SLSG is something of a new beginning for me. The SLSG  has encouraged me to be part of a network of supportive like-minded professionals, and I am truly honoured to be included. This current environment has created an opportunity for me to utilize the skills and knowledge gained in my lengthy litigation career, expand my existing sports law practice and further develop my alternative dispute resolution skills. I’ve always loved to write and I’m very fortunate to have many creative skills with which to express myself. Blogging is a relatively newer experience for me that requires an intellectual curiosity and a desire to share stories. I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you as I continue to discover new ways to bring clarity and justice to the sport community.

Feel free to contact me at MLK@sportlaw.ca 

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