“My Story” Featuring Hon. James L. Warren (Ret.)
Judge Warren joined JAMS in 2006 after an extensive legal career and having served as a superior court judge in San Francisco for 12 years. His mediations and arbitrations often involve large commercial cases with millions of dollars at stake and a primary focus on intellectual property.
Finding His Niche and Expanding His Comfort Zone
Judge Warren worked for almost 20 years with a large firm in San Francisco, known at the time as Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, and became the founding partner of its intellectual property department.
Following that, he was appointed as a judge to the San Francisco County Superior Court, where he split his time between civil and criminal law. After he’d been there for about two years, he was told by the presiding judge that he would be sent down to criminal law court. “He told me it would be a great experience and that I’d really enjoy it. He was right,” says Judge Warren.
Judge Warren is passionately involved in his community. “I’m a very good listener,” he says. It’s that skill, along with his knack for empathy, that allows him to thrive in his positions with Legal Aid at Work and the Immigration Legal Resource Center.
Key Questions for a Successful Mediation
“When I have pre-mediation calls, I ask lawyers three questions,” says Judge Warren.
- “Suppose the mediation is successful. What does that look like, from your perspective?”
- “What are the levers we can pull and buttons we can push to make that happen?”
- “Every mediation has topics and subjects that are important to the lawyers or to the parties that take a lot of hot-air time but don’t move the ball forward at all. Let me know what those are so I can listen to them, acknowledge them, understand them,” and simply let them breathe so the mediation can move toward a resolution.
The Journey to JAMS
Judge Warren’s transition to JAMS was predicated by several of his friends and colleagues. But he was having a great time in court. “The court is the best job in the world,” he says. But he knew it was time to move on to JAMS after having an extremely taxing position as the law and motion judge in San Francisco for three years.
When asked about the transition to mediation at JAMS, Judge Warren says that “it was just like I had a different office, but it was the same world.” He has many of the same colleagues and sees many of the same lawyers he saw in court, so “it really wasn't much of a transition at all.”
His Private Life Made Public
The National Association of Gay Judges asked Judge Warren to give a speech at its meeting in San Francisco. He recalls starting off by saying, “I never thought I would be a speaker at an organization that in the past I would never have been asked to join.” Because he came out late in life, there was life before and life after.
“Coming out takes time, a lot of time.” For years, he says, being gay was “not a part of my public life.”
These days, in addition to working, Judge Warren enjoys traveling the world and spending time with his children and grandchildren.
Judge Warren believes that the more communities are represented by diverse neutrals and staff, the better. “JAMS is working really hard at that, and they’re doing a great job,” he says. Diverse representation matters, but, he added, “it’s difficult simply by the nature of the way groups have been excluded historically.”
He Did It His Way
Judge Warren has always had a passion for singing and was the president of the San Francisco Choral Society for many years. He admits that his life from its “recent point of view” is far more interesting than it was in the past. Given his love of singing, it is fitting that the song that resonates with him the most is “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
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