Jeff Kaplan, a retired judge, has joined JAMS in Dallas as an arbitrator, mediator and special master
Kaplan says JAMS has a reputation as a leader in ADR services and the move “was a natural transition.”
“I know many JAMS neutrals from dealings through the years,” he says. Kaplan adds that he served with one of the JAMS neutrals on the court of appeals and has known others for more than 20 years.
Kaplan joins JAMS after two decades as a judge. “I was a federal magistrate judge for 18 years and served on the state court of appeals before that,” he says. “I really enjoyed my time on the bench but was looking for a new challenge at this stage in my career.”
Kaplan says he was drawn to ADR because he enjoyed participating in judicially moderated settlement conferences while on the bench.
“Judges are engaged in all sorts of ways to resolve litigation matters,” he says. “When you are a judge, you have to be less creative than you’d like to.”
“I’m kind of a think-outside-the-box guy,” Kaplan says. “Opportunities for being creative in fashioning dispute resolution are more plentiful in the private sector, like at JAMS.”
Kaplan says all cases are interesting in their own ways, but he has a particular interest in intellectual property cases.
“I always walk away learning something new about technology or business, and the cases are well prepared and argued by the lawyers,” he says. “It’s rewarding to work with the parties.”
Although Kaplan says there are many opportunities to participate in case resolution outside of trial as a judge, he says his new role will be different.
“Decision making skills are transferrable, and arbitration is like being in trial but with some different rules,” he says. “Mediation is much more challenging.”
As a judge, even working on moderated settlement agreements, you still have the power to come to a decision, Kaplan says.
“As a mediator, you don’t have that power. Mediation is more of an art. You have to learn to facilitate discussions among parties, help advance and get across points to other parties, be a good listener, and at the end of the day, what you hope to do is bring parties together to try to resolve the dispute in a way everyone can live with.”
Despite these differences, Kaplan says he’s excited about getting into the new area.
“What I bring to the table having been a judge is experience for almost 20 years in listening to people advance cases,” he says. “I hope to help each side see the strengths of their case, and the weaknesses, and facilitate discussion that can help resolve the matter so the parties save some time, money and risk and exposure.”
— Christine Lesicko