Joceyln Dan Wurzburg – an interview


Who are you? Where do you come from? What is your background? 

Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 was a transformative event for this fifth generation Memphian. I came to understand racism, systemic and individual prejudice, and all its community dynamics; I felt a call to action. In my interesting and complicated journey, I found myself in a situation that led me to draft Tennessee’s first anti-discrimination law. 

That project lead me to law school to become a Title VII plaintiff’s lawyer. So, at the age of 41 and on course for a divorce, I passed the bar and sought my first job in 22 years. I couldn’t find one in Labor Law (it appears my authorship of the law wasn’t helpful), and I couldn’t afford to open a practice in that area. But, I got a job doing a small firm’s “other problems” – collections and divorces. After my first four divorce trials, which my bosses said in glee I had won, I was sick. Nobody won, least of all the children. So, in 1982 I hung out a shingle to do uncontested divorces. I would help folks who had to get a divorce get it in a civilized way. 

What do your current professional practice and activities look like?

I retired from law in 2005, just to mediate, mostly family law but also employment and work place problems. I do a lot of work for the Postal Service. I practice party-empowering, facilitative mediation, mostly pre-lawsuit. I try not to be evaluative, but I am directive as to the process. I also train family mediators a few times a year. 

How did you first learn about mediation? 

In 1984, a pamphlet came across my desk from Marilyn McKnight for a 40-hour mediation course in New Orleans. OK, a tax-deductible excuse to visit my brother for a week in NOLA! It changed my life. It was exactly what I was looking for. It had a name and techniques for what I was sorta doing half-ass. 

What do you hope to accomplish as a Board Member of APFM?
Reclaim mediation from the clutches of “lawyerized” mediation. The original model taught from AFM-approved trainers works and is being eroded by a “close the file” mentality. While traditionally resistant to credentialing mediators, I do acknowledge that we need to promote standards of good practices. 

Where do you see the field of Family Mediation going? 

It should be the first process in divorce and other family law conflicts. I am distressed that, while some courts require an attempt at mediation prior to court action, I see it happening only after all discovery is done and emotions are hardened. It needs to be a first step, not a few weeks before trial. 

What do you like to do when you are not mediating? 

I love music, travel, reading, and art. I am a novice musician and painter. My honey of 32 years and I enjoy entertaining with small dinner parties. So, let me know when you are coming to town. 

For more information visit Wurzburg Mediation

This interview was originally published in The Professional Family Mediator, Winter 2015.

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