LOS ANGELES — Judicate West, a private dispute-resolution company, has added a University of San Francisco graduate to its list of neutrals.

Ann Kotlarski has worked for more than 30 years as a business/commercial and employment attorney and graduated from the University of San Francisco’s School of Law cum laude in 1985, according to an news release.

“I got a great education there,” Kotlarski told the Northern California Record.

She said they had very practical courses, “which you didn’t always see everywhere.”

Law was not Kotlarski's first choice, as she originally went to study history at Northwestern University.

“I was a history buff. I was a history major. I thought I was going to be a history professor,” she said. “I think I loved history because as a little girl I loved fairy tales. I just loved stories and getting to the end of the stories.”

However, she soon decided to switch careers.

“I realized that although I was quite intelligent, I was not what I would call brilliant — at least brilliant enough to be able to teach at a top university,” she said, laughing.

When some of her professors suggested law school, she headed back to California to begin her law studies, she said. After graduating, Kotlarski began working and said that over the last few years she had been drawn to negotiating with the other side to settle cases out of court.

“In fact, what I found in the last five or six years of my career is increasingly I was settling the vast majority of my cases — about 60 percent or more without a mediator,” Kotlarski said.

She said she had found the majority of cases did not end up going to trial in either state or federal court.

“Summary judgment can be very, very difficult for employers to get in employment matters,” Kotlarski said. “So, if you are not willing to go to trial and, usually it is not just one side but both sides, you need to look at an opportunity for resolution.

“I have spent years talking to clients and saying, ‘I know that is what you think but this is what the plaintiff has got going on and you can’t ignore that. I think that has served me well in the mediation context because I am used to looking at both sides and weighing the pros and cons on both sides of the table.”

Kotlarski said that in her field of employment discrimination, she tried to be sensitive to the emotion involved.

“These are very sensitive claims both for the people bringing them and the people accused of the misconduct,” she said. “It really creates a heightened emotional atmosphere sometimes when it comes to resolving a case.”

One thing she said she learned from past mentors mentors was “how important it is to not get wedded to your own position but be able to understand where the other side is coming from. That is just something I have done naturally throughout my career.”

As for the future, Kotlarski said she is looking toward building a “rigorous” practice.

“I am looking forward to developing a full-time mediation practice for both employment and commercial litigation matters and, from time to time, handling some arbitration matters,” she said.

Judicate West was founded in 1993.

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