On one end of the mediation spectrum, Oakland mediator Randy Wulff says, are the message carriers – people who deliver offers between disputing parties. On the other end are the arm-twisters, mediators who push and pull the parties to settle their cases.
Wulff, 54, identifies more with the arm-twisters. “I’m definitely more from the interventionist school,” Wulff says. A former trial lawyer who spent 27 years with San Francisco’s Farella Braun + Martel, Wulff opened his own mediation shop, Wulff, Quinby & Sochynsky, last year.
“If parties [resolve] by me carrying offers back and forth, that’s wonderful, but I wouldn’t settle very many cases,” Wulff says.
That philosophy has worked, according to Wulff’s records. Since he began mediating cases in the mid-1980s with the American Arbitration Association, he estimates he’s settled at least 90 percent of the more than 1000 cases he’s taken.
Recently, he resolved disputes involving the renovation of Oakland Coliseum; the construction of Arizona’s Bank One Ballpark, Seattle’s Safeco Field and Los Angeles’ Staples Center, and new attractions at Universal Studios and Disneyland.
Although he’s best known for resolving construction conflicts, Wulff also counts intellectual property, general commercial, securities and real estate among his specialties.
Mark Peterson, a former colleague at Farella Braun, says Wulff, as a trial lawyer, was “head and shoulders” above others he encountered.
“He’s seen so many cases he can conjure up a solution that a less-experienced mediator might not find as apparent,” Peterson says.
He recently hired Wulff to settle a case with the blessing of his opposing counsel at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe.
“The best thing he does is understand the parties’ positions, not just their legal positions, but also their political and emotional positions,” Peterson says.
As a trial lawyer, Wulff took more than 100 of his own cases to mediation. That experience, he says, taught him a couple of important lessons.
First, he says, “I don’t ever urge someone to do something that I wouldn’t do if it was my money.”
Second, he won’t take a dispassionate approach to his work. “If I can’t get a reasonable alternative [to litigation] to the table, I do take it personally,” he adds.