“My Story” Featuring Hon. Gail S. Tusan, Senior Judge
Judge Tusan brings more than 30 years of judicial service to her practice at JAMS. Over her storied career, Judge Tusan has presided over a wide variety of cases, both large and small. Her professional journey started in Atlanta the 1980s, when she joined a large corporate law firm and practiced trademark and copyright litigation. She notes that she was the first African American female associate at the firm.
“I had challenges, as you would expect being in that capacity. But I was able to work through them.”
After a few years, she moved to a smaller firm, where she primarily practiced intellectual property and franchise law.
From the beginning, she was intentional about her desire to make a transition to the bench. Before long, she made that dream a reality.
She has always been passionate about helping two sides reach a compromise, whether in or out of the courtroom.
“I have had an extraordinary career and the opportunity to interact with attorneys, litigants, elected officials and people from all walks of life,” says Judge Tusan. “I think those experiences, and being in the position to help resolve them, as a trial judge prepared me really well for this next step.”
Overcoming Obstacles Through Contribution
When asked about obstacles she has faced in her career, Judge Tusan says that getting comfortable being the only minority in the room took time.
“At the time, in the early ’80s, there were other young African American lawyers at other large firms. We got to know each other. The women, in particular, formed an organization called the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, which is still in existence and is one of the best bar associations in the Southeast.”
The Georgia Bar Association of Black Women Attorneys (GABWA), a statewide organization founded in 1981 to nurture, support and galvanize the power for Black women attorneys and advocate for women and children in their communities.
Transition to JAMS
The transition from the bench to ADR was a natural one. After more than 25 years as an elected judge, she was ready to do something different with her experience.
At JAMS, she has been appointed as an arbitrator in employment cases, consumer cases, health law matters and general business and commercial disputes. She also works as a mediator to help parties resolve cases involving family law matters, business dissolutions and general, civil and contractual disputes.
Recipe for Success: Listening, Integrity, Accessibility and Kindness
The techniques that Judge Tusan has implemented to be successful, especially in mediation, begin with listening actively. She believes that no matter can be resolved without the understanding that comes from listening with an open mind.
Her recipe for success also includes integrity. It’s important that people have confidence that she will do the right thing without a hidden agenda.
Accessibility is also important. Judge Tusan has always prided herself on having an open-door policy and being direct.
Judge Tusan’s final ingredient is kindness. She believes in the importance of treating people how she wants to be treated.
“Let people know that you respect them, that you value them, and that what’s on their mind and on their heart is important to you.”
Judge Tusan is a new board member of an organization called GLISI, which is the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement. This organization supports school systems in developing good leadership so that the education provided to the students reflects the values of today and gives equal opportunity to all.
She also serves on the board of the ADR Institute for Georgia, which offers continuing education for people involved in the ADR industry, and the board of the Dispute Resolution Section for the Atlanta Bar Association.
One organization she particularly enjoys being part of is The Links, Incorporated, a community service organization involving professional women and businesswomen. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of its chartering this year, the organization prides itself on being friends with and giving back to the community. Judge Tusan has been the president of her local chapter and served on a mission trip to Haiti, where she worked in a medical clinic.
A Lifelong Facilitator
Judge Tusan plays many roles in her life. She is a professional, former judge, JAMS neutral, community volunteer, board leader, wife, mother and grandmother.
In all of these roles, her goal is to be a facilitator for positive change. She works hard to listen to, understand and make life better for those she comes in contact with while leaving her unique mark on the world.
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