Bernard Taylor, Sr., Esq., joined JAMS in 2021 with over 40 years of complex commercial litigation experience involving health-care related matters, racial discrimination, class action and mass tort, environmental liability, pharmaceutical products liability and toxic tort lawsuits filed in various jurisdictions throughout the U.S.
Please provide a brief overview of your legal career prior to joining JAMS.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University Law School, I practiced for almost 40 years at Alston & Bird. During my early career as a trial lawyer, I participated in over 100 trials, mediations and other legal proceedings in representing physicians and health care institutions in medical malpractice cases and other health care–related matters in Georgia and the southeastern U.S. Later, my practice evolved to general commercial, health care and products liability matters on a national basis.
As a result of the quality of my litigation experiences, I was selected as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Participating in a significant range of matters as a trial lawyer provided me with insight into the various issues, concerns and goals faced by parties participating in mediations and other types of alternative dispute resolution. I use that knowledge to help parties reach fair resolutions of their matters.
Your experience as an undercover police officer in Detroit is unique. How did you transition from law enforcement to the practice of law?
Becoming a police officer was a temporary course change from my goal of becoming a lawyer. I wanted to help resolve some political, racial and cultural issues within the police department at the time and intended to stay just a short period. My 10-year tenure was much longer than I expected. A judge who helped me in my efforts to fight crime in Detroit and corruption within the city’s police department counseled that I had done all I could do. Therefore, it was time to pursue my long-term goal of attending law school.
However, the lessons I learned both about myself and the complexity of the human experience prepared me for having empathy as I encounter the nuances of life. Quite frankly, being a police officer made me both a better person and trial lawyer.
You have said that your recipe for success as a mediator is patience, determination and empathy for all parties. What advice do you have for counsel bringing a case to mediation?
I would suggest two things: One, be comfortable with the facts as they relate to both sides of a case. An understanding by the parties of the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s case significantly improves the chances that they will find common ground upon which a fair resolution can be achieved. And two, be fully invested in allowing the ADR process to help you to achieve a resolution. This requires counsel and their clients to enter into the mediation process with an awareness that success requires a willingness to compromise in light of each other’s goals and expectations.
What makes you unique as a mediator?
As I noted in my advice to counsel, being fully invested is key. That applies to the mediator as well. I believe it is important to be all in. On any case I handle, I fully commit to the process of helping the parties reach a fair resolution of their dispute. This requires gaining the parties’ trust, which I do by focusing on and understanding the issues important to both parties. This ultimately allows me to help them achieve their respective goals. I definitely enjoy the process.
What makes you passionate about ADR?
I’m passionate about the process of helping parties to resolve their disputes. With each case, I am invested in understanding the parties’ issues. It is important to me that I demonstrate a command of the case in order to gain their trust; in doing so, I can help them reach a fair resolution.
What has the experience of doing virtual or hybrid ADR been like for you?
The virtual and hybrid ADR proceedings that I’ve handled have gone seamlessly. The necessity of remote interactions visited upon all of us by the pandemic required that we embrace and get comfortable with the experience. It appears that participants like the convenience of virtual ADR, which has allowed them the flexibility to attend portions of the proceedings without having to travel.
Why is diversity and inclusion in the ADR field so important?
We all bring our varied life experiences to understanding the issues we face on a daily basis. The exclusion of diverse individuals from assisting parties in resolving disputes deprives those parties from the unique, and many times informative, perspectives that diverse individuals can contribute.
Tell us more about the organizations and causes you are involved with outside of your ADR practice.
I have long-term, leadership-level involvement with UNICEF USA, the Anti-Defamation League, the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and 100 Black Men of DeKalb County. These organizations support my goals to improve the lives of the disadvantaged children of our world and to ensure that we understand that our quest for peace, happiness and safety in our daily lives is shared by many on this planet.
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