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11 Dec

Nastaran Heydari

Associate Consultant


Five Questions with Victoria Pynchon: Women’s Herologist, Arbitrateur, and experienced American lawyer.

There is usually a lively debate going on over at Victoria Pynchon’s LinkedIn blog. I got caught in, or jumped into, the crossfire once. The discussion on her page regarding a particular topic was getting a bit “heated” (allegedly) between a few of the participants, myself included. The big debates are usually about topics relating to women's rights.

I became interested in her personality and background after she sent me a message regarding the discussion. The message was one sentence long, but it took the wind out of my sales in a good way. Turns out she is in expert negotiator with a background of legal expertise a mile long. I could tell.

A: “Hearts of Darkness.” (the documentary of the making of Apocalypse Now)

Q: What did "Hearts of Darkness" teach you about people?

A: It taught me that successful people do not quit on themselves. After a hurricane destroyed Coppola's sets in the Philippines and the army took the leased helicopters away to fight rebels in the mountains, someone asked him "do you ever think of quitting?" and he said, "what am i going to do, quit on myself? Say, “Francis, I quit?” I mortgaged my house to make this film, all my money is in it. I can't 'quit. It taught me that people who are willing to take risks, really big risks, laying everything on the line and then to course correct when everything goes wrong, are not only the people who succeed in a very big way, but are also the people who are…what's the word? It's not happy or content…It's "engaged" I think. They are engaged in life in a way that makes success and failure worth the effort.

Q: What is one thing that you think women do better than men?

A: I don't actually think women do anything better than men. I dont' know "women," anymore than I know "men." I know individuals who contradict gender stereotypes. If you asked me in what way do I think the present culture in the U.S. supports women's choices, I'd say, we are allowed a far greater range of gender-appropriate behavior. We're allowed to feel the entire range of feelings - sadness, anger, joy, fear, tenderness, love - for a far greater range of people - than men are. We can hold hands with our close women friends without causing a riot.

We can burst into tears if we are angry or sad or moved by sentiment. We can be affectionate with men and women without raising suspicion that there's something sexual going on there. We can acknowledge weakness without being disrespected. We can wear pants, cut our hair short, adorn ourselves with jewelry and paint our faces to improve our appearance and not be accused of being vain. We can ask for help, cry out for it, without being mocked. We can concern ourselves primarily with the domestic sphere or spend our lives in the commercial sphere without undue criticism.

Q: What is one thing that you think men do better than women?

A: Same answer as above. the culture does support men expressing a level of self-concern, that it does not generally permit women to express.

Men can therefore be more competitive, self-serving, domineering, and, demanding.

I do believe it's just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie. Harder, probably, because the culture doesn't give men carte blanche to form truly intimate relationships with anyone but their spouses, making divorce and the death of a spouse a far more difficult event, so difficult that it's often life threatening to men but not, generally, to women.

Q: What legal concept do entrepreneurs find the most confusing?

A: It's not so much a legal concept entrepreneurs find confusing as it is the shock of learning that the justice system never seems to deliver justice on their terms or, in many cases, at all.

It frustrates them beyond belief when they realize that what is most important to them and their business is deemed irrelevant and outside the concern not only of judge and jury, but also outside of their own lawyers' concern or understanding.

Entrepreneurs are used to being in charge, making decisions, weighing risk against benefit and then making the best of what they understand will be an uncertain result. When they enter the adversarial system and are told by their lawyers to be quiet, not to express their concerns, not to speak up when it comes time to negotiate a settlement and to simply do what they're told to do by their lawyer, it first confuses and then infuriates them.

I'm thinking my way to the answer here, writing my way toward it. I think the "legal concept" they have the greatest difficulty understanding is the elimination from the narrative of their dispute most everything that makes it dimensional, textured, dramatic, and unfair.

A good lawyer will explain that the story is flattened out in an effort to treat one dispute just like another despite radical differences in style or detail. If we don't do that, we can't rely on the precedent that is the basis of our case law system of dispute resolution. That process makes so much of the "story" irrelevant to the legal resolution that the entrepreneur often feels as if he can't possibly win because the story no longer makes sense, let alone sufficient sense to convince a judge or jury that s/he has been wronged and is deserving of being made "whole."

Also, the fact that the justice system is not really designed to make anyone whole even if they win because the expense in time, effort, costs and attorneys' fees eats away at whatever award or settlement might eventually be reached.

Often lawyers aren't able to fully communicate this to their clients at the outset. Lawyers don't generally begin with the ultimate bad news that the client will likely have to accept a quarter or a fifth or a tenth of what they lost and might not recover anything at all.

Too many lawyers tell this to their clients at the end, the final pre-trial settlement conference when everyone, opposing counsel, their own lawyer, the judge or the mediator, tell them that trial is too risky, their "case" too shot full of holes, the expense too great for them to bear, to risk losing.

As my trial advocacy professor told the class on day one: The law does not deliver justice, it delivers resolution.

Victoria "Vickie" Pynchon is an American lawyer, attorney mediator, speaker and author based in Los Angeles.

This post originally appeared on Linkedin. Written by John Meredith

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