“My Story” Featuring Amb. (Ret.) David Huebner, C.Arb
Amb. (Ret.) David Huebner, C.Arb, joined JAMS following 25 years of arbitration and intellectual property practice.
An Ambassador’s Journey to Mediation and Arbitration
Looking back, Ambassador Huebner shares that he didn’t necessarily “take to” law school and chose to take a leave of absence to spend some time experiencing the “real world.”
“I moved to Tokyo and worked in the Japanese government on a Henry Luce Fellowship, and it was that experience that really galvanized my focus on international practice and on mixing legal practice with government service.”
Ambassador Huebner then worked in Los Angeles as a visiting fellow at an NGO, then spent some time working for a few large law firms.
Following that experience, he made his way to Shanghai to open an office for a law firm there. While working in Shanghai, he received a call from the White House, which led to a five-year stint serving as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand as well as the U.S. ambassador to Samoa.
The Pinnacle of a Career With Many High Points
Ambassador Huebner’s career is one with many highlights, but the one that stands out to him isn’t related to law or alternative dispute resolution at all. He was the first openly gay person confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead a diplomatic mission.
“The Smithsonian Institution determined that I was the first LGBTQ person in the history of the republic who was nominated by the president for a national security position and confirmed by the Senate.”
When he returned from his posting overseas, the Smithsonian held a ceremony and took his diplomatic passport, his spouse’s passport and many of his papers and personal effects as part of its permanent collection of American history.
“I can’t imagine a thrill or an honor that will ever exceed that.”
The Secret to Successful Mediations and Arbitrations
Ambassador Huebner calls fluency, not only in the techniques of your craft, but in the businesses and sectors in which you intend to practice, the key to being a successful mediator and arbitrator. He notes that the best arbitrators and mediators are the ones who are careful not to order the parties around and understand why they’re in the room. He learned this from being in front of many skilled mediators and arbitrators through the years.
Key Mediation Skills: Active Listening and Emotional Intelligence
With respect to mediation, Ambassador Huebner believes that active listening and emotional intelligence play pivotal roles.
“What people say is only a small part of what they’re conveying, and it’s important to understand that.”
Emotional intelligence has also served him well, although it’s a skill he feels that he didn’t possess at the start of his career, but rather one he developed over his 32-year marriage to a psychiatrist.
Diversity and Inclusion: An Engineering Challenge
Ambassador Huebner believes that, in some ways, he has championed his own diversity and inclusiveness initiative, given the way he’s chosen to live his life and his career.
“My view is if we approach diversity as an engineering challenge, we’ll be in the right frame of mind.”
In his first eight months as a member of the board of directors of the North America branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, he transformed the board from a homogenous group to an extremely inclusive group—majority female—with heavy representation from historically underrepresented groups. More importantly, within that same time frame, the board used existing funds to build the kinds of cultivation, networking and structural programs that will make the inclusiveness that they engineered organic and self-sustaining.
Regarding the future, he’s optimistic about progress on diversity and inclusion.
“In terms of looking forward, I think that progress, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, will only increase because the complexion of C-suites and corporations, big law firms, law school faculties and student bodies is changing.”
In his view, the country’s own demographics are changing.
“We are organically, irreversibly becoming more diverse.”
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