David Karen, an active civil trial lawyer entering his third decade of litigation, is the new Chair of VCBA’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) Section. Karen says, “mediating is pure inspiration. My fellow ADR Section board members – including Hon. David Long and Mark Kirwin – expect the ADR Section will help inspire others in the VCBA community, as mediation participants and as neutrals.”

Karen participated in the Los Angeles Superior Court’s first “Mediating the Litigated Case” program in the late ‘90s. That program was put on by Randy Lowry, the founder of Pepperdine’s Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution, aided by Peter Robinson and Jeff Krivis, to assess whether the trial lawyers trained by the Straus Institute would be more effective in settling cases than the existing panel of untrained volunteers.

When I arrived for the Straus training, I had the jaded perspective that no one could teach me anything I didn’t already know about settling a case,” Karen said. “After all, I had been representing plaintiffs and defendants in the trenches through litigation for years, and 99% of those cases had resolved short of trial. After two weeks of listening to those mediation giants, however, my career path changed.”

“While there isn’t more thrill in the legal profession than the competitive spirit at trial, the hours and unpredictability of trial work can be rough. And, with most cases settling, life as a trial lawyer is not an unadulterated thrill, war stories aside. After the training, I realized how brilliant Randy, Peter and Jeff were: They not only labeled the phases of settlement (e.g., “joint session”, “caucus” and “the dance”), and technique (e.g., “bracketing”, “pins” and “timing”); they also created a path to this burgeoning industry.

“As I began volunteering as a mediator for the LASC, I only then realized the meaningful role I was playing. I was helping more in 3 hours mediating than I could in a month litigating. Participants expressed gratitude and appreciation. That happened only once in a blue moon as a litigator. I had fun and was excited to play the role. I became a disciple. I’ve since learned that it’s never too late to mediate. Now, 15 years and 500 mediations later, I wonder if it can ever be too early.”

The ADR Section expects to host a panel to explore the Art, Science and Law of Mediation with the VCBA community. Stay tuned for the ADR Section’s evolution. We are looking for additional officers and board members: Only the passionate need apply. Contact David Karen at (805)988-4848.

 LGBT Section Ed Elrod and co-chair Kim Shean plan to increase awareness of  the LGBT community (including clients, attorneys, staff and related persons) in our daily practices and our lives. Participants in activities and presentations will benefit by learning more about the legal needs of the LBGT community on both sides of the table; the Section will offer opportunities to organize, present, interact and educate via personal stories and experiences.

The Section plans simple introductory presentations making our colleagues aware of the unique and varied styles and approaches to the practice of law of our own membership. We will start by speaking ourselves, and then bringing speakers from outside of our own geographic community to learn about the opportunities to practice this special subsection of the law in varioussized communities with larger LGBT bases. For more information, contact

Employment and Labor Law Section – Nobody can fill Mike Lavenant’s shoes, but Joe Herbert (employee perspective) and Panda Kroll (employer perspective) will try. They will, together, keep the Employment and Labor Law section functioning. Please look for practical and informative presentations in the future. If you have a topic in mind that you’d like to see presented, please don’t be shy to write to Joe ( and/or Panda (

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