Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Going To The Mattresses

This is the third in a series of three articles about lessons in perseverance I learned as a young lawyer that serve me, and my clients well, in mediation matters.

Early in my career the brilliant older attorney who served as my "mentor" said a few things to me that I didn't really understand that I have written about in previous articles. He told me to give a problem the "Smokey the Bear" treatment and he told me to "Bring a Toothbrush" to a hearing. He had to explain those homilies to me, and he did so with great relish. After all, the purpose of using such obscure colloquialisms is to have the recipient ask what the heck you mean so you can deliver the canned lecture you have in your pocket.

One thing he said to me before we were about to begin a month long preparation for trial was, "Stein, we're going to the mattresses."

This one I knew well and understood instantly. The quote was from Mario Puza's The Godfather. It was a tactic used when preparing for a protracted conflict with a rival gang. The "troops" would go to rented apartments and stage their battles from those "safe" locations. That way families would not be endangered and known "soldiers" would not be subject to ambush at home. The mattresses part is because many people would be sharing these quarters and rather than have actual beds for each guy, they would just bring in a bunch of mattresses for the temporary accommodations. So when he wryly tells me that we "are going to the mattresses", what he is really saying is kiss your wife goodbye, tell your children and pets you love them and you'll see them soon, until further notice you are in "full work mode" and you may, or may not, be going home only to sleep.

I use the same attitude when I am conducting mediations. Lots of times in mediation things are moving and that is a positive development. Mediation started in the morning, we worked through lunch and as the dinner hour approaches I would rather keep everyone together and send out for food then break and lose momentum. It's the old "going to the mattresses" attitude and you just stick to it until you get to the best result possible.

Many times I have had my clients ask if their experience with me is unique, because they can't believe how hard I work. I kind of laugh at the notion because, as far as I'm concerned, it's not hard work. It just sometimes takes a long time to accomplish the best results.

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