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JAMS Pathways Neutral Spotlights & Profiles

JAMS Pathways Profile: Focus on Howard A. Herman

Learn more about JAMS Pathways neutral Howard A. Herman, the professional accomplishment he is most proud of and his extensive experience in designing and refining dispute resolution systems.
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How does your background lend itself to doing JAMS Pathways work? 

I have broad experience as a mediator across a wide variety of subject matter, but the bulk of my experience lies in process. I've been involved in designing and refining dispute resolution systems for courts in the U.S. and internationally for more than 20 years. I also have extensive experience as a conflict resolution teacher.

What is your motivation for doing JAMS Pathways work?

I'm excited by the opportunity to work with people in the early stages of conflict, before it manifests in recourse to the courts. In mediation, I often ask participants to tell me about what the problem looked like before it became a lawsuit, as that may provide insight into problem-solving based on the underlying needs and interests of the parties. JAMS Pathways holds the promise of truly working with folks before conflict escalates.

What are the values that resonate most with you?

Thoughtfulness, and a willingness to examine what's really driving a situation, coupled with loyalty, respect and—perhaps most importantly—humility.

What are your (Pathways-related) areas of focus? 

I'm particularly interested in working with people on how to deal with conflict productively; for example, helping folks have difficult conversations and handle emotions. While I consider myself more of a generalist, I do have considerable experience teaching at the law school level (as an adjunct), so that does give me some affinity for the higher education setting.

How would you describe your training style? 

I try to customize every training opportunity to the needs of the individuals involved, while ensuring that there is a solid mix of theory and practice. I attempt to build on what the participants already know, using participatory exercises wherever possible. The basic methodology can be summarized simply as “tell, show, do, reflect.”

When did you realize that you would devote your life to helping people overcome conflict and similar challenges? 

As a very young litigator, I second-chaired a lengthy jury trial in federal court. We won a resounding victory and then were promptly fired by the client. We'd focused so much on winning that we'd lost sight of the client's underlying needs and interests, which would have been far better served by settling early on. Shortly thereafter, I left litigation to participate in the earliest experiments in appellate mediation at the Ninth Circuit. From that point forward, I was hooked.

What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?

While running the ADR program and the federal court in Northern California, I designed and led an innovative program of ongoing self-reflective practice groups enabling volunteer mediators to deeply examine the problems they encountered in their cases. Some of them have participated monthly for more than 15 years, building a vibrant community of support for each other.

What is the best piece of advice you have received? 

Strive to replace judgment with curiosity.

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