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JAMS ADR Insights

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Neutral Spotlights & Profiles

A JAMS Q&A Session: Shining the Spotlight on Nancy Kramer, Esq.

Learn about her legal journey, the piece of advice that was invaluable for her career and how her diverse experiences have empowered her to connect with a broad spectrum of people.

Please provide a brief overview of your legal career prior to joining JAMS.

I’ve been fortunate to have a diverse, multi-faceted legal career which has significantly enhanced my ability to connect with various attorneys, clients and issues. I worked for Legal Aid after law school, for NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group); for a bar association and later for the New York Attorney General, among others. Having exposure to many areas and approaches has stood me in good stead in my ADR career.

How would you describe your ADR style?

For mediations, flexible and reactive. I do not have one style for all mediations but try very hard to learn what the parties need and respond well to. Listening intently is key.

For arbitrations, the main goal is to be and appear 100% neutral. I take substantive cues from the Agreement to Arbitrate if there is one of substance. I also learn about what is needed in pre-hearing conference calls, of which there are usually several. During hearings I work to strike a balance between letting all parties feel heard but keeping the process efficient and on track.

What practice areas are you most interested and experienced in and why?

A substantial part of my practice is with employment cases which I quite enjoy. Having been a supervisee, a supervisor, and in management is quite helpful. Also, since many such cases are mediated, the employment bar is familiar with ADR, mediation in particular, and comfortable with the process. Reaching a settlement in these cases will often improve the lives of two or more people, which they or counsel express. This is very satisfying.

I also like and am well suited for co-op and condo cases, a subject I worked with in the Attorney General’s office. Communal habitation creates many conflicts among residents and with governing boards. They are particularly poorly suited for litigation as the parties generally continue to live together. A very early case sticks in my mind—a dispute between a cigar smoker with a terrace and his neighbor with children who played on their adjacent terrace and breathed in the smoke. Before the session, to be held in an attorney’s office, the smoker expressed concern about the lack of security there. After reaching a resolution (a timetable and notice from the smoker), the two parties left together, chatting.

My ADR experience also includes a substantial number of commercial, civil rights, personal injury and other cases.

Facilitation—the least understood and most underutilized of my practice areas involves working with a group that is having issues of communication or leadership or participant clashes which have not risen to the level of clear- cut disputes. Successes in this realm have included assisting a department of a state college find structure and direction; assessing for a small religious organization the substance and validity of staff complaints about the executive director and helping a foreign consulate clarify the roles of two overlapping staff members. This process demands the ultimate in flexibility—an initial structure of whom to talk with and when is important but may need revision as the process continues.

What traits have contributed to your success as a mediator/arbitrator?

I strongly believe that most cases are much better settled by mediation or arbitration than by litigation—for reasons of cost, length of time and range of possible resolutions. This is something I communicate throughout my sessions whenever I can.

I can relate easily to a wide variety of people and enjoy doing so which is probably related to my varied work history. My curiosity and interest in people’s stories during mediations is apparent. Sometimes I may add a bit of judicious humor to the dialogue.

What has the experience of doing virtual ADR or even hybrid been like for you?

Virtual hearings have been a big and pleasant surprise to me. They work quite well, especially for arbitrations, now that most counsel and many parties have become comfortable with Zoom. It is a major convenient and cost-saving tool now integrated into the ADR world.

Who influenced your ADR career?

When I was beginning my mediation career 25 years ago, Carol Liebman, then the founder of Columbia Law’s mediation program and a major figure in New York mediation, suggested I apply to a very large organization that was launching an employment mediation program. I knew of the opportunity but was not planning to apply because I did not have the minimum of 10 completed mediations required. She advised applying nonetheless. I did apply and explained what relevant negotiating experience I had. The program accepted me and became my steadiest client—I have mediated more than 100 of its cases. Carol became a friend. And I learned that there is flexibility in many expressed requirements so why not ask?

What do you like to do in your free time?

I read a great deal of fiction. I take frequent walks and hikes and go to museums, theater and dance performances. Spending time with my grandchildren trumps all of the above.

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