“My Story” Featuring Mercedes Armas Bach (Retired Judge, 11th Judicial Circuit)
Discovering a Passion for ADR
Ms. Bach’s legal professional journey started one year after graduating from law school, when she inherited a law practice from an attorney she had been working with.
While building a successful practice, Ms. Bach began to explore mediation and experience its benefits. After spending several years in private practice, she began her judicial journey and spent 17 years on the bench in Miami-Dade County, where she most recently was a judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit.
Ms. Bach has now returned to mediation as a neutral at JAMS, where she specializes in general civil, business, maritime and employment disputes. She is bilingual in English and Spanish. This allows her to preside over international arbitrations and handle them seamlessly.
Community service is significant to Ms. Bach. She is involved with the Cuban American Bar Association, which she has been part of since its founding. It has now become one of the most popular and powerful bar associations in Florida.
She also holds dear her connection to the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, where her daughter and daughter-in-law have both served as president.
When asked about obstacles that she’s encountered in her career, Ms. Bach said, “One of the barriers has been not having adequate representation of women and minorities.”
In 1977, as a law student at the University of Illinois, she was one of only a handful of women in her class and the only one of Hispanic heritage. Having found success despite these challenges, Bach is encouraged to see the increase in diversity and inclusion that has taken place over the last decade, but she recognizes that there is more work to be done.
Finding Common Ground
When it comes to getting a case resolved, one of Ms. Bach’s favorite techniques is to try to find common ground with the parties. To do this, before she starts a session, she tries to meet them on their level as human beings, not as litigants or advocates.
“I talk to them about their families, children and work. Once you’ve developed a relationship, you can begin to find common ground.”
The Importance of Listening
Soon after becoming a judge, Ms. Bach received one of the most influential pieces of advice she has ever been given: God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.
Following that advice has helped her throughout her career. Because of her ability to listen and seek understanding, she is respected for her fairness, diligence and efficiency in handling each case she encounters.
Diversity and Inclusion
Finally, Ms. Bach feels that a step everyone can take to promote diversity and inclusion in ADR is to mentor others. She had strong mentors throughout her career and believes that developing and encouraging others is essential.
“Mentorship is the key, I believe, to bring in people who are going to be the future of this industry.”
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