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No Substitute For Experience

MediatoroftheMonth_2013James Mayer, Esq.’s inimitable experience results in solutions, savings and satisfaction for clients.

James Mayer

With a resume that boasts Rufus Choate Scholar, graduation with Distinction from Dartmouth College as a National NROTC Scholar, Harvard Law School (with honors), a Defense Superior Service Medal for service in Desert Storm and the Legion of Merit, the title of Rear Admiral, and senior officer in the Naval Reserve, it would be understandable if James Mayer had a bit of an ego. However, from the moment he begins speaking, it’s obvious that nothing could be further from the truth for the retired senior corporate partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman (formerly Pillsbury Madison & Sutro). Jim Mayer is instead extraordinarily affable and humble. What comes through instead is a clear passion for solving problems, and a palpable excitement in regards to finding solutions.


Mayer’s ability to offer solutions to disputing parties can be traced to his vast experience as both an attorney, logistics supply officer and for the past 21 years, mediator. As a Martindale-Hubbell AV rated attorney since 1980, during his career at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, “I represented partnerships, start-up companies and some of the largest international corporations,” he recalls. His work involved everything from setting up the initial VISA card operation, and the initial public offering of credit scoring pioneer Fair Isaac Company (FICO), to representing Chevron in its acquisition of Gulf Oil Corporation, in a staggering $11 Billion deal. In fact, it was Mayer who opened the Pillsbury firm’s office in San Diego in 1988 with an associate. Today the firm has 43 attorneys in its San Diego office.

In 1992, however, an opportunity arose that would allow Mayer to begin learning the ropes of solutions for all parties involved in a case, as opposed to representing just one side of a dispute. “In 1992, Bates-Edwards Group, one of the leading mediation firms on the West Coast wanted to open a San Diego office. Pillsbury had an advisory partner program which provided a flexible opportunity to join Bates-Edwards. My mediation training included basic theory from San Diego’s National Conflict Resolution Center and an advanced training through CDR Associates, Negotiation Strategy Institute, Institute of Conflict Management and Professor Mnookin, now Director of  the Negotiation Project at Harvard,” Mayer says.

In 1994, armed with years of experience as an attorney, and having just retired as a Rear Admiral and the senior officer in the Naval Reserve, Mayer became an independent mediator. Three years later, he retired from Pillsbury as a senior corporate partner to become a full time mediator. And to hear him tell it, it has been one of the most rewarding decisions he’s ever made.

Mayer’s multi-faceted background makes him unique in mediating disputes, particularly ones with a commercial or business nexus where negotiating skills are crucial. “Many of these cases require an understanding of the underlying business aspects and development of creative solutions beyond monetary figures,” Mayer says.

It is precisely the development of these creative strategies for solution that Mayer finds tremendously gratifying. When it comes to professional business disputes, for example, Mayer relishes such challenges as “unwinding the transaction,” and admits that his “business background and logistics supply experience does come in handy.” In order to focus the parties, Mayer encourages them to exchange briefs, but also welcomes confidential letters from both parties. He usually meets one on one with each party at the beginning of mediation sessions, so that he can get to know those involved on a personal level. Mayer also encourages parties to have a joint session, but honors requests to decline if the parties prefer not to participate.

These strategies have paid off astonishingly well for Mayer and his clients, as he’s earned a more than 90% settlement rate over the course of his career. Not surprisingly, his talents haven’t gone unnoticed. For the past 15 years, Mayer has been one of a few mediators to serve in San Diego on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel. He also serves on the San Diego Superior Court’s mediation panel. This year he was also named among 2013 top lawyers (mediation) by San Diego Magazine


Mayer is a firm believer that most disputes can be solved, and in many cases, relationships preserved. For example, when talking about employment contracts and harassment disputes he says that sometimes, a mere apology from a senior official can go a long way. “Most people don’t want to lose their jobs. There are friendships involved and recognition at stake. A 32 year old client often doesn’t want to get a payout and just sit around. Primarily, they want the harassment or discrimination to stop.

This opens the door to a wide variety of solutions.”

In fact, Mayer chuckles when saying “if you give me enough time, I believe I can solve just about anything.” However, that doesn’t mean that he’s out to rack up hours to bulk up his earnings. “I don’t nickel and dime people,” he says. On the contrary, Mayer charges roughly ½ the hourly rate that other experienced mediators charge. Moreover, he doesn’t charge for travel to mediations. The savings he’s passed on to clients as a result of mediating disputes in Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii, in addition to California, is therefore significant.

“I believe that results are much more important than income generation,” Mayer says. In fact, it takes some prodding to get him to admit that quite frankly, he isn’t dependent on income from mediation these days. He mediates because he loves it. He loves the challenges, and the opportunities to sort out complex issues to the satisfaction of the parties. However, he concedes that in order for parties to put forth their best efforts, there does need to be an investment. Mayer has found that “they do need to have something at stake.” All the same, Mayer doesn’t book multiple mediations in a single day, nor does he charge for perhaps the greatest use of his time—thinking about a particular case; he instead, merely bills for sessions and reviewing background material.


For Mayer, the problem-solving strategies employed to bring about resolution, not only result in satisfaction for clients, but for himself, personally. In regards to the joint sessions he holds between parties, “it is an interesting process to keep under control, and to observe personalities,” he says. “In disputes often the apparent problem masks underlying emotional issues. Persistence, patience, listening skills and understanding the underlying issues are crucial to achieving the agreement of the parties,” Mayer explains.

Indeed, there are very few challenges that don’t get Mayer excited. When it comes to general commercial and business, real estate, corporate & securities, employment and environmental disputes, Mayer is eager for the opportunity to help. “I just like to be useful to society,” Mayer says of using his expertise to help bring about satisfied clients.

With more than 1,000 mediations under his belt, Mayer has an almost childlike enthusiasm for the work he feels lucky to be able to do. “I like solving problems. I find the process fascinating.”


James H. Mayer, Esq.
Mayer Mediation Services
7924 Ivanhoe Avenue, Suite 3, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: 858-551-5525 | Fax: 858-551-5554

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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