Asking For A Friend: Learn About the Mediation Process with Gino Brogdon Jr.

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Jeb:

We get a lot of questions about mediation. So today in Asking For a Friend, we’ll talk with Gino Brogdon Jr. who’s a really good mediator. Gino used to run a trial practice shop like ours. He used to handle personal injury cases like we do, but as he grew in his career, he started handling some mediations, which is where he sits down on an informal basis and tries to reach a settlement so that neither party has to go through years and years of litigation. And he found that he was really good at it and that he liked it. So now Gino does mediation full-time and is here to talk with us about what that process is and in particular how it might look from the perspective of someone who has a dispute and wants to get it resolved.

Here is Gino’s website. He is with Miles Mediation. You can see that logo in the top left, which is a really good mediation shop here in Atlanta. You can tell from his calendar he is popular because he is booked up all the time. His bio is down here under “Neutral Information.” If you wanted to read more about it, you could. I’ll just say now that Gino’s good at what he does and he’s really good at explaining it. So we look forward to talking with him today in Asking For a Friend.

Well, Gino, thank you for joining us. I’m excited to have you today. We have done talked with a few folks with different expertise in different fields, but nobody in ADR, alternative dispute resolution. Tell us what you do.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So Jeb, I am a mediator and an arbitrator. Also, my wife and I are co-founders of a mediation software. And mediation and arbitration are forms of alternative dispute resolution. And so that is what I, in these past seven or eight years have dedicated my life to.

Jeb:

Okay, and you haven’t always been a mediator. You were once a lowly lawyer like me. Is that true?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Yes. I wouldn’t describe it as lowly like you. That’s not how I’d describe you, Jeff. But yes, I was a litigator. I litigated on behalf of injured plaintiffs. And while I loved being a litigator, I learned my real skillset was helping people resolve matters in creative ways as opposed to litigating.

Jeb:

Them. And now is that full-time for you?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

That is full-time for me, yes.

Jeb:

So tell us, let’s pretend that I’ve got some dispute with somebody. I don’t know anything about the law. I have successfully avoided lawyers and mediators my whole life and my run of success is coming to an end. You got this problem with this company or this dude who won’t do right, how might I come in contact with you? How is your job relevant to me?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So mediators, what mediators do is they help solve problems on a lot of different levels. So imagine almost any dispute you can think of, whether it is you’re talking about a car accident or you’re talking about a dispute with your landlord, even a domestic dispute like a family dispute, mediators are essentially people that help facilitate conversation to try creative solutions that help you and whoever that other party are, really make decisions that take everything into account, fully encompassing, not only what happens next if you’re not able to get it done, but the benefits and the downsides of solving problems. That’s really what your mediator is doing.

Jeb:

So how would I even come across you?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So an example, so I primarily mediate in the personal injury space and business disputes.

Jeb:

Because that’s what you were doing as a lawyer before.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Exactly, exactly. And because I was doing that type of litigation, it made sense to move into that space. You could run into a mediator in a lot of different ways. So you could be ordered to mediation by a court, whether it is a smaller claim in magistrate court, many of those are required to go through short mediations that are only an hour or two long. In Gwinnett County, all cases are required, all civil cases are required to go to mediation.

Jeb:

We see that more and more as you well know. I mean, most judges now are doing that.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

And it is a very good procedure for them to require because it really requires people at bare minimum, even if it doesn’t get the case resolved, to take a pause on the fighting and think through and hear the other side. I think the thing I love most about mediation is even when I may not be successful in a settlement, you have success in being heard. And I think for your average person, that’s a big piece of disputes in general, that at least has the other side heard and understood why I’m saying this, not just what I’m saying, but why, where it comes from and what walk of life I’m bringing to this that informs my decision making. And that’s so important. Whether you’re dealing with an insurance company, a landlord, a family member, being heard and communicating well is the key to resolving disputes.

Jeb:

So let’s say that I end up at a mediation in front of you. You’re going to be the mediator who helps everybody get on the same page. I know from my perspective as a lawyer, what I see, I usually tell my clients, we’ll probably have an initial session. Everybody’s in one room, be a whole bunch of lawyers, some insurance adjusters, you, me, the whole thing. And I tell them our mediator will give us a talk about how everyone should play nice and put their cards on the table. And then I tell them we’ll split up in different rooms and pass numbers back and forth. Now that’s a very simplified explanation. Tell me, put some flesh on those bones. Tell me what you feel like most people ought to expect when they walk in and Gino Brogdon Jr. is going to be doing the mediation.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Okay. If you were to walk into a mediation with me, you’d come, you’d sit down. I am a mediator. Mediator at Miles Mediation. And so there’s plenty of, as Jeb knows, there’s plenty of snacks and coffee and drinks to keep people-

Jeb:

How did I forget the snacks? The cookies?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

But you’d sit down, you’d be most likely with your lawyer and because in the type of work that I do, when you are injured or you have a business dispute at the level of case I’m mediating, you generally need a guy like Jeb there. Okay? But when you’re sitting there with your lawyer, the thing that I would tell you is about to happen is I first talk to you about what happened and not necessarily in detail you wouldn’t want to go into, but I would acknowledge your injury or acknowledge whatever suffering you have been through. Because what we understand as mediators and as attorneys like Jeb is, even if you get a good result, it doesn’t fix what you went through. It doesn’t take trauma away, it doesn’t give you time back, it doesn’t give you health back. There are a lot of things we do not get back in mediation.

We are making the best of a bad situation. Jeb’s gotten some incredible results, but I bet if you talk to those families he represented, it didn’t bring their loved ones back. And so the first thing we got to do before we talk about money or processes, acknowledge what you went through, let’s talk about that so that we have a clear understanding at the beginning. We’re not going to fix this, but you’re going to be heard. We’re not going to fix it. But I want to listen to you. So I understand when you say things later in your mediation that we have context. And so we start with affirming that and then I tell them a little bit about what we’re there to do. And that is you are there to figure out can they create enough risk for you not to go to trial.

Jeb:

Now, tell me what you mean by that. That’s an interesting phrase. Can you create enough risk? What are you talking about?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So I see risk as an equation. And the two variables in the equation are the amount of money they’re willing to offer you and what other facts are important in the case, in your evaluation. And you got to have those two pieces of the equation before you know your risk. And so what I always say to folks is, look, let’s fill out the equation first. Let’s get that top dollar that they’re willing to offer you. So that you know before you say yes or no to an amount or think about going to trial, you know what they’ll offer you before you go to trial.

Number two, we got to know what they’re going to say to a jury. Because even though you probably live your case, you live your pain, you live your suffering, no one can ever experience it in the way that you experience it. You got to know what they’re going to say in the other room because sometimes they have a clever lawyer on the other side who can use pieces of your medical care, can use pieces of any part of the case, against you, and you don’t even know it because you’re just trying to get better.

And so you should hear that before 12 people make a decision about the value of your pain and suffering or the value of your business dispute.

Jeb:

So I guess the risk from a plaintiff, someone that I would represent is, look, I think I got a great case, but the jury might disagree. I’ve got downside risk at trial. And the risk for an insurance company or a well-heeled corporate defendant is a little bit different. What does that risk look like?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So I’m in the other room, that’s what I’m saying, to your average person that walks into mediation: your company, it kind of depends on what they value. And so, one of the things that I have to do prior to a mediation is figure out what does this company value? For example the, I’m not going to name any names, but here in Atlanta we got some big names that generally try to do right by people. Those companies do not want a bad story out. So they’re willing to pay a premium in order to keep this confidential. So I know that at the beginning that what is valuable to this company is keeping this quiet and doing the right thing.

So how do we accomplish that goal? How does that goal intersect with the person who’s sitting in the other room? That’s really, so risk in the other room is it also involves numbers. It is, one of their variables is what is the least the plaintiff will take. And then the other variable is how will this case be presented at trial when you compare that to what their priorities are and what they value?

Jeb:

And I mean there’s, not to oversimplify, but there’s the upside risk. If you’re an insurance company or a wealthy corporate defendant, you might get hammered. A jury might destroy you. And so I feel like that’s a risk they have to think about in addition to the reputational risk-

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jeb:

… That you raise,

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

That is always the risk, especially in the kind of environment that we are right now, where I feel like since the pandemic, if you’re looking at verdict numbers, if you’re looking at settlement numbers, they’re up. And they may not be forever. I do believe it’s a pendulum that swings back and forth, but right now they’re up and people are paying for the silence because they don’t want to be in certain counties, they don’t want to be dealing with Jeb. Okay?

Jeb:

He’s very kind. I don’t know if he can come back. So now, Gino, you work at a private mediation company and you’re handling… I mean really so far as I know you, you can correct me if I’m wrong, fairly, what some people would call it high exposure, high end, serious injury, personal injury cases. It’s kind of the big stuff. Is that what all mediators do?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

No. So my wife and I’s journey with this mediation software, we really had to learn mediator demographics and understand who’s doing what kind of mediation, who’s doing the most mediation of that type of thing. And what we learned is really the personal injury mediation is just this small sector of the spectrum of mediation. And the spectrum of mediation really is dominated by domestic mediation. That’s really the primary-

Jeb:

Is that divorces and child custody and that stuff?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

That’s the majority of it. And so when you hear that stat, 50% of all folks get divorced and all of that, that fuels a lot of mediations. Now it’s not just those kind of disputes. You can have all kinds of disputes with your family that you can resolve with mediation, but primarily you’re dealing with divorce, custody and things in that arena.

Jeb:

You mentioned we were talking about I think landlord tenant, is that a thing?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

It’s also a big one. Yeah, it’s also a big one and that it’s also a very common dispute. I remember when I practiced more, I would get a lot of folks who would, when I first started my practice and I hadn’t kind of established what I wanted to do, I was doing personal injury, but I was also reviewing contracts and trying to keep the lights on and I remember getting landlord tenant cases, and while I never took any of them on, I remember receiving so many of them and just wondering who deals with the landlord tenant cases. And we all know a lawyer or two that do them, but really there’s-

Jeb:

But not many.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Right. Not many, but there’s a huge mediation market out there that I think a lot of folks don’t know about, that you pay a mediator a 100 bucks and the apartment complex pays their 100 bucks and you guys do an hour or two hour mediation and potentially work it out.

Jeb:

Tell me about that. Because, and not everybody with a real case has a big case and not all of them want to deal with me. There’s good reasons for that. So let’s say I have a dispute with my apartment complex or my cousin’s being weird about grandma’s money or something like that, and I don’t need a damn high dollar lawyer, but I need my problem resolved. Where can I go? Where do I find these people?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So that is Jeb, that’s actually the point of our software.

Jeb:

Okay. What’s it going to be called?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

It’s, the software is called Fourth Party. And really the software is free to users like yourself. And essentially what you do is go to fourthparty.app and there’s a search function and you search for a mediator.

Jeb:

This is live now?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah, this is live now.

Jeb:

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jeb:

Cool.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Oh, we’re live now. Yeah, absolutely. We launched at a American Bar Association dispute resolution conference in Vegas a couple months ago. So the software’s live, you can go right now and search. And right now we are just focusing on Georgia. We have a nationwide database that we’re going to be implementing in the next few months. But that ultimately, if you had a dispute like this-

Jeb:

Excuse me as I reach across you, let me see if I can [inaudible 00:14:34].

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

You look up the mediator that you’re looking for. So you can look search by if you were concerned about race or expertise or gender or things of that nature, you can tag in that way. Or you can just search a Georgia mediator who handles these kind of disputes. And then that way you’re not searching for the lawyer to then go find a mediator. It takes you direct to, and it’s a simple enough, a landlord tenant dispute, a simple enough where you don’t need a Jeb. You don’t need that kind of brain power on a case like that. That’s something where you sit down for a couple hours and you be heard. And that allows you to get your dispute resolved.

Jeb:

Was it fourthparty.app?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Yeah.

Jeb:

All right.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

See the search function in that top right corner?

Jeb:

Yeah. Yeah. So I’m going to ask you another question and then I’m going to see if I can remember how to pull this up. I know there’s a way to do it. I’m not sure if I can do it fast enough to make sense now. So let’s talk about this. Let’s say I’ve been having this dispute over my boundary line or whatever it is, and I know I’m right, and that other jerk is freaking wrong. And I really think they just don’t agree with me. But it hadn’t happened. It’s been going on two years. I’ve been worrying about this a long time. What are some reasons that I ought to consider mediating the thing, even if I know that I’m right and they’re wrong?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

And that’s a tough one. That’s a really tough one because what you have to gain is not financial. What you have to gain is peace of mind and there’s a high value to it. But the truth of the matter is, what you have to think about and why a mediation is important, is the mediator can present the options to you. Okay, if we can’t get this resolved and you win the dispute, what do you really win? How much money do you spend? How much time do you spend? What is your risk in even though you’re right, still being found wrong? All of these are things that you need some kind of expertise, not only to let you know and inform you, but inform the other person whether they’re right or wrong. Because they should know that if they are wrong, that they have more at risk than the person who is correct.

Jeb:

But what about this? There’s ways, no matter what I do, I can do very little to affect the time I have on earth. I mean, we all going to die. This is a limited amount of time we playing with. I hope you didn’t get that news here on Asking For a Friend. Hopefully you’re already aware. But I mean, I could spend my time with any number of things. I could cut my grass, I could hang out with my friends. I could run my side hustle like you and your wife got, whatever that is. I could be better at my existing job. I could just take a nap or I could spend it worrying about what my boneheaded neighbor is doing.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Right. And you hit the nail on the head. You hit the nail on the head. It is the peace of mind. It is, and I know sometimes that term can be overused, but the truth is, how do you want to spend your time? And I normally say this when I’m at the end of a mediation and an insurance company has put a top dollar on the table for a plaintiff who’s been injured, and that plaintiff says to me, oftentimes, “Gino, this is not worth what I went through.” And I have to remind them, and maybe this is because my mom’s a therapist, so I got a lot of issues. She’s a PhD psychologist.

Jeb:

And your dad is a judge.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

And he is a judge. So I got all kind of issues y’all. But the truth is, when you get to that final moment, you got to remind people this, the money doesn’t fix what you went through. The money doesn’t give you back your time and your energy. The question is, how will I continue to spend my time with my family? How will I continue to spend my life here on Earth? And if that is spending it in a way that creates value for yourself, that value isn’t fighting somebody at trial. There are cases that will always need to be tried. The real question is, does this allow you peace moving forward? Does it help you turn a chapter in your book of life so that you can move on? Because I was in a horrible car … Head on collision with a drunk driver probably about five years ago. And I remember when they offered me some small settlement, and I said, and I talked to my mom about it. And she said, “Gino, what is worth your time moving forward? Don’t think about this being worth your injuries.”

And it made me a better mediator because once I started thinking about, oh, this isn’t money for injuries, this money doesn’t make you whole like the law says. It doesn’t fix losing a loved one. It is, how am I going to dictate my conversations in the future? Am I going to talk about this forever? Is this going to dominate who I am? Is this going to take over my identity because I want to fight and because I’m not getting the amount of money that I think is correct for this? And for some people it is worth the fight. But for most people, when you think about the conversation you want to be having in a year about this incident, is you don’t want to be having a conversation about it. You want to be moving on with your life and enjoying your loved ones.

Jeb:

There are crazy people like me who like to fight, but thank God they got me. So Gino, as we were talking, I found this really cool website and let’s pop this thing up. Look, and there’s you and me sitting there running around in the corner. But this, I’m going to hand the machine to you and kind of tell us what we’re looking at.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So guys-

Jeb:

So as you kind of move through it, it’ll show on the screen.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

So guys, this is our website. And so the functionality I’m going to show you guys is really just the search, because there is a piece that are for the mediators where it has an internal system for mediators to organize, to schedule mediations, payment and that type of thing. So for example, right here we got Bryan Sutlive. Brian is actually a part of our team at Fourth Party. He’s the first one that comes up. But as you can see right up here, you can search, let me see if they’re going to pull me up. There we go. All right. And so it searched me out. So you can search by name. If you didn’t want to search by name, as you can see here, we can do it by state, we can do it by industry, we can do it by diversity, because that is really important for people to feel comfortable in being heard, that there is a diverse group of neutrals that they can choose from so they feel like someone is hearing what they’re saying and understanding what they’re saying. And we want to be responsive to that.

And so really, for the folks sitting at home who are trying to get a dispute resolved, this is the page you would use. And so you would say, “Okay, I like Gino. I’d like to book the mediator.” All right. And you see my calendar here.

Jeb:

Wow, man.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Okay. And so I’m booked up here, and so you’d have to go to another date. I’m booked up a lot y’all. They got booked through. But the point here is-

Jeb:

You need to raise your rates.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Yeah.

Jeb:

450 [inaudible 00:21:32].

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Brogster is going to say I’m going to need to raise my rates. And guys down here, I haven’t done this yet, but if you can’t see where Jeb and I are, but if you look down where the mouse is right here, there’s an education and a affiliation section. And so if you needed to read a bio and understand more about me, you could do that type of thing. So that’s really what it is for your average person who’s just looking for a mediator with the right kind of expertise to handle whatever dispute you need.

Jeb:

Cool, man. Great work. Thank you to you and Mrs Brogdon. That’s really cool.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Thank you. She’s the brains. It is all her.

Jeb:

That might be true or might not, but I know that you’re a smart dude because every smart dude says that.

Oh, so this has been a good talk. Let’s wrap it up with this. Tell me what you enjoy about mediation. And I’ll give you a little preface, it won’t be as long as your typical lawyer preface, but it’s just this. Yeah, I feel your passion for what you do, and that’s really cool. And that’s hard to fake. And when someone gets out of bed and hustles every day on something for a long period as you have with mediation, I know, and as you are with Fourth Party, it’s something other than money that’s driving it. So what drives you?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Yeah, I’m really driven by this concept of justice because justice is kind of this moving line that you got to fight for. And that’s why cases will always need to be tried. That’s why we are all, both lawyers and mediators, are necessary cogs in this justice system. But justice in my opinion, is, a big piece of it is, being heard and understanding and having that person in the other room knowing that they hear you, they understand you and that people can find peace in their life through mediation, that they can resolve something. And once it is resolved, and it’s not me that’s resolving it, it is the people in the room. But when people choose to resolve something and that allows them to take the weight off of their shoulders, I just don’t know that there’s much better for me and that selfishly, but helping people reach those goals. Letting them put something in their life that has traumatized them behind them, that’s really it.

That’s what I enjoy.

Jeb:

That’s cool. Thank you, man.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

I appreciate you having me on, man. Thanks a lot.

Jeb:

Thank you.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Thanks a lot. Yeah, this has been great. You showed off your technology skills.

Jeb:

That was pretty good one.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

I’m pretty impressed.

Jeb:

Yeah, I mean, it went well.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

I’m pretty impressed.

Jeb:

Honestly. I thought this team was about one out of three.

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

You look like Jeb. They look kind of like a TikTok video where they do the faces over the background. I didn’t even know you know how to do that kind of thing, man.

I mean, I barely do. We do TikTok now. It is crazy.

Jeb:

Oh, do you really?

Gino Brogdon Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I record TikTok, so I have to really watch it. Danny, you guys should stop recording before I sound [inaudible 00:24:19].

Jeb:

We got editing. Oh, you knocking now.

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