This blog post has been cross posted from the Civil Practice Committee Blog.
Calling All Attorneys!!
If you practice in Santa Clara County and have appeared in the Superior Court, you may have been in need of a Rule 4 neutral.
Rule 4 Neutrals are provided by the court free of charge to the parties. I handled at least 10 early settlement conferences in 2014 and I have no doubt there could be more cases out there that could benefit from a Rule 4 neutral.
Rule 4 is similar to mediation in the sense that the parties are there to resolve the case. The best benefit for most cases is that the Early Settlement Conference is generally early. The defense stops incurring the costs of litigation. The plaintiffs get resolution and on with their lives. It's usually a benefit for both sides.
For the neutral, there's an unknown benefit---getting to know attorneys in the community or simply seeing old friends.
The reason I love being a neutral is seeing old friends from my insurance defense days. Although I solely practice employment law, I am appointed to automobile cases nearly 99% of the time. My career started at Farmers Insurance with Rick Pedersens' office and I love seeing attorneys from that office, the adjusters, the plaintiff's counsel I used to butt heads with. It's all very nostalgic. In addition, I get $150 for my time, which comes in handy for the little things my kids want like dance classes or sushi.
If you would like to try your hand at being an early settlement conference neutral the application is easy and is available here: http://www.scscourt.org/forms_and_filing/forms/CV-5016.pdf
If you have any difficulty finding the form, you can go to the court's website and in the search box type in "Rule 4 neutral" and it should take you to a list which includes the information you seek.
It's a great help to the court and it's a great way to network. In the event you want to become a mediator in the future, it's also great practice.
By the way, I liken mediations and early settlement conferences to being a grandparent: You get to play with the case, and then they go home at the end of the day.