For Janné McKamey, connection leads to conflict resolution.
“I want to better understand what someone else may be going through,” she says, “because I may have seen that situation in the 30 years I’ve been practicing law. Once you realize that you have something in common, all the other differences seem to fall by the wayside.”
Janné started her litigation career three decades ago. Over the past decade, she started a neutral practice in alternative dispute resolution, has served as a part-time magistrate in Cobb County, Georgia since 2016, and joined the Alterity ADR panel this year.
“Because I have a lot of experience, it’s easier for me to see different sides of the situation and convey those to the other side,” she says.
Janné’s empathy stems from her work as a volunteer. She donates her time to her church as well as to projects that benefit LiveSafe and the Cobb County Bar Association’s Children’s Emergency Fund. Janné has also reduced her fees for clients affected by domestic violence or financial hardships and works pro bono through the Cobb Justice Foundation and Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.
“It’s important to give back because I think COVID has shown all of us that we might just be one step away from something unexpected,” she says.
Another passion of Janné’s is science fiction, regularly volunteering at conventions in Atlanta. One, DragonCon, raises money for a charity and sends its volunteers to lend a hand. For example, Janné has packed meals, cleaned up a public dog park and written holiday cards.
“This isn’t just fun, but there is a purpose,” she says. “All of these volunteer activities expose you to more things that help you be more empathetic towards people, because you see all different types of situations as a volunteer.
“Volunteering has a lot to do with my willingness and ability to find something that I have in common with somebody else, to make something difficult work out,” Janné added.
Working with Alterity, and its mission to diversify ADR, is also important to the Chicago-area native.
“If a neutral firm does not have people that look like one side of a dispute, that might not have shared the same experiences as them, the firm may not be neutral,” she says. “If the other side looks, acts, and has the same financial educational background as a neutral, how would you know that the neutral is going to represent both sides fairly? Are they going to be afraid to ask me for clarity if they don’t understand who I am?”
Janné says that with more courts amenable to sending people to ADR before a final hearing, the general public is becoming more familiar with what most attorneys-turned-neutrals already knew: That if given the opportunity to speak freely, and express what they like or don’t like about the legal situation they’re in, it’s easier to reach a resolution.
“Oftentimes when people go to court, and the judge renders an order, they’re like, well, that’s something I could have done without going to court,” she says. “Most people are so hell-bent on proving their point that they fail to realize that there’s a way to prove it without being so adversarial.
“There’s always a feeling behind an action,” she says. “They were treated unfairly. I don’t believe the contract said this. All those are feelings that go to the legality of a situation. So, I think once you understand how it got to the point of it becoming a legal situation, then you can help them work through it.”