Damali Peterman joined JAMS with over 20 years of ADR experience, with a focus on business and commercial insurance, employment, international and cross-border, Title IX higher education and civil rights, among other practice areas. Prior to joining JAMS, Ms. Peterman founded Breakthrough ADR, a global firm that helps organizations resolve conflict and teaches people how to listen, negotiate and resolve everyday situations in the workplace and beyond.
Ms. Peterman’s legal career started at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, which represented Lehman Brothers during its bankruptcy and restructuring in 2008. She learned a great deal about bankruptcy and restructuring from this experience and from handling other large-company restructurings and reorganizations around the globe.
“There’s something to be said about starting your career in a down market,” she says, “because you really learn the entire lifecycle of a company from start to finish.”
Her early career taught her about being flexible and navigating conflict. “I also learned that I love helping people figure out what to do when conflicts arise,” Ms. Peterman says.
Ms. Peterman is involved in a number of organizations in her community and in the ADR community at large.
“What I really enjoy doing,” she notes, “is advancing the ADR careers of students.”
She is committed to providing opportunities for the next generation of students—not only law students, but also undergrads and other graduate students. Her goal is to help these students understand that there’s more to dispute resolution than pursuing a claim in court.
“I want them to know that mediation should be considered as a first option to resolve disputes,” says Ms. Peterman.
In addition to her involvement with students, she’s involved in the National Bar Association, her sorority, organizations committed to children and the advancement of women and women of color.
Three Things ADR Professionals Can Do to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Spread the Word
“Tell a friend,” says Ms. Peterman. She goes on to explain, “If you know someone who is an exceptional ADR practitioner, and they happen to check the diversity, equity and inclusion box, tell someone about them and speak up on their behalf.”
Ms. Peterman says it’s important to become an ambassador for that person.
- Challenge the Norm
“If you notice that the same thing is happening over and over again, where only certain people are being asked to sit at the table, challenge that norm. Ask someone different to sit at the table. Be the change you want to see in the profession.”
- Be Part of the Solution
Ms. Peterman notes that there are easy ways to invite people to be part of the conversation and encourage others to talk about the need for change.
Ms. Peterman believes that lasting and durable change is possible and achievable.
“I Did It; You Can Do It Too”
As for the title of the story of her life, Ms. Peterman says it would be “I Did It; You Can Do It Too.”
She feels that people have an “ideal vision of what they believe a mediator or arbitrator looks like.” What she’s found throughout her career is that while people may be surprised to see her, they are usually pleasantly surprised.
If she had limited herself to thinking that only people who looked a certain way or who had studied a certain curriculum could be successful, she would likely have chosen a different profession.
Ms. Peterman has a gift for conflict resolution, and she is compelled to share it with the world. She wants to be a part of the solution to various problems.
“I didn't let the fact that most people I saw doing those things didn't look like me deter me from aspiring to be a mediator and an arbitrator in a global arena.”
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