We’ve all heard (and likely used) the well-worn phrase that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Well, Judge Carol Terzo apparently never got the memo. Indeed, in 2009, Carol and her husband spent a holiday weekend in Las Vegas for the express purpose of leaving Sin City having charted a new career path for the longtime jurist and Geist resident. “I was ready for something new – but what?” Terzo explained. “I’d recently completed a continuing education course in mediation; and that Thanksgiving weekend in Vegas, I had my ‘aha’ moment.” She would step down from the bench, and in 2011, launched The Mediation Option, LLC, a professional practice dedicated to helping parties deadlocked in legal dustups reach equitable, reasonable settlements.
Lori Perryman and Elodie Meuser, attorneys and co-workers in the Marion County Prosecutor’s office, took note of Terzo’s career change – with twinges of envy. Well-acquainted with Terzo thanks to numerous appearances in her court, they, too, walked out the door and into partnership with the good judge. “I was weary of the prosecutor’s office,” remembered Perryman. “When Sundays rolled around and the workweek loomed, you could see a physcial change in me. Friends said, ‘You need to go – you need to be happy again.’”
Meuser was equally fed up. “I literally took a walk around the block, made the decision to leave, and called the others to say I was coming, too.” After a lengthy career in healthcare, the firm’s fourth partner, Emily Bubb, came aboard, bringing a non-legal perspective to dispute resolution. “I was pursuing a career in mediation, and had just finished a job-shadow experience with a not-particularly-encouraging male mediator. Ten minutes later, Carol called me, and the rest is history!”
The foursome knew the secret to success was in being different. “Most mediation services have a cold, uninviting conference room,” explained Terzo. “We knew there had to be a better way.”
Studying the psychological effects of the color palette (note to self – blues and browns are stress relievers), they painted and decorated the office suite at 9302 North Meridian Street accordingly, including living rooms fitted with plush couches and pillows. “We wanted clients to be comfortable; to relax,” said Perryman.
With a clientele that is about 70 percent court-ordered, the team employs co-mediation that encourages candor by all and ferrets out what is often the hidden, but true reason for a dispute. “We play off each other,” said Judge Terzo. A few participants have stormed out, and doors are occasionally slammed. And the foursome says that’s okay. “It’s important that people feel empowered, and that they be heard,” explained Bubb. “We don’t want anyone to feel bullied or manipulated.”
The approach seems to be working. Opposing legal counsel generally embraces the strategy, and clients often thank the team. “We help them move on,” said Terzo matter of factly. “We get agreement about 90 percent of the time.” Perhaps, in part, because clients are discouraged from ending up in a courtroom. “Arbitration is kind of like a private court trial with no rules and is usually the best solution,” offered Meuser.
To learn more about The Mediation Option, go to www.tmoindy.com.