Mara Linder: Mediator of the Month
When singing about D-I-V-O-R-C-E, the late country superstar Tammy Wynette searingly captured the heartbreak and pain that many couples go through when severing their legal and emotional ties.
We’re betting Tammy’s tune might have sounded quite a bit different if the songwriters had ever met Mara Linder. Why’s that?
Because Linder, owner of Affordable Mediation, is a firm believer in the power of mediation to soften the impact of many of the trials and tribulations that are generally part and parcel of divorce. Linder backs up her beliefs with some impressively solid stats: 19 years experience as a licensed Arizona attorney and six years as a counseling psychology professor. She also served a stint as president of the Arizona Counselors Association.
Legal Background, Counseling Skills
Several years ago, after spending the first part of her legal career working for Gallagher & Kennedy and Steptoe & Johnson, Linder moved to Italy to reevaluate her life. Although she enjoyed her time with the firms, like many colleagues, she wanted to consider nontraditional legal career paths and focus on lifestyle options. “For others, tragedy was the impetus for a change. I decided to make a preemptive strike and embrace a new road while my family was happy and healthy.”
While in Italy, Linder realized she wanted to incorporate her passion for psychology into her career and use it to help people in a personal way. Upon returning to Phoenix, she obtained her Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling, graduating with highest distinction.
Having discovered she preferred more of a cooperative, settlement-minded approach when she was practicing law, the mediation process appealed strongly to Linder’s interests and style. “Mediation seemed like the natural fusion of my experience and skills,” she explains. As a result, since 2007, Linder has been combining her legal abilities, counseling background and mediation training to help divorcing couples during what is often a very challenging time. “I believe families can emerge from a divorce better than before,” she says. “I have mediated well over one hundred divorce cases with nearly every couple finding a mutually acceptable settlement and avoiding the stress of litigation.”
In 2010, Linder founded Affordable Mediation, which frequently serves as an adjunct to the services that other attorneys provide to their clients. “For example, instead of referring divorcing clients to another firm, an estate planning firm can refer its clients to Affordable Mediation. We can provide as little or as much support as the clients need through their divorce process, but the referring firm stays involved throughout and prepares all legal documents,” says Linder. “It’s important to note that our involvement is limited just to divorce. We do not practice law, so we are not a competitor to other attorneys. We are an added value they can use to assist their clients.”
Linder believes it is the human element of the divorce process that should be the focus when working towards a solution amenable to both sides. “As an experienced mediator, I understand the complexity of interpersonal disputes and strive to offer a compassionate sensitivity to the needs of each party,” she explains. “The psychology piece is crucial to family transitions and my counseling background helps me try to understand the underlying issues and how to address them. I feel I now have a deeper insight into how people can heal and move forward after an emotional upheaval.”
eMediation and Social Media
Affordable Mediation has a number of innovative differentiators, including eMediation, which uses the latest in video conferencing and technology to offer mediation services without the constraints of time and location. “We are the first divorce mediation company in Arizona to offer eMediation, allowing us to serve people from the comfort of their home or office, yet still provide quality, caring, face-to-face service, making divorce mediation accessible to people in a variety of situations all across Arizona,” says Linder.
Along with eMediation, Linder is harnessing the power of social media to keep prospective clients, attorneys and the general public informed of her services and skills. “In addition to our presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we post a regular blog on our website that provides helpful hints about divorce-related topics,” Linder expounds. Affordable Mediation is also developing webinars and podcasts. “We plan to stay on the forefront of technologies that will help us serve our clients,” says Linder. “Equally exciting is our aspiration to ‘go green.’ Affordable Mediation has converted to an almost completely paperless company.”
Affordable Rates, No Hidden Fees
So why did Linder name her firm Affordable Mediation?
“It’s really pretty simple,” she says. “We have a unique, low-cost business model with affordable rates, no hidden fees and no deposits. We invite attorneys to contact us to find out more about how we can synergistically work together to provide the best services to their clients – a win-win for everyone.”
At a Glance
Mara has been married to Michael Jacobson, a native New Yorker and local chiropractor, for almost six years. Mara and Mike are the proud ‘parents’ of a 2-year-old Border Collie/ Lab mix who had been abandoned on a street in Prescott. “We named her Layla because Mike is an Eric Clapton fan.”
“Although finding time is a challenge, I’m passionate about rock climbing. In addition to the Arizona mountains, I’ve had the opportunity to scale a few crags in New Zealand and Patagonia.” Travel, theater and reading are also high on Mara’s interest list, but, until recently, not sports. “Being married to an avid sports enthusiast and die-hard Mets fan has exposed me to the finer points of the games. In fact, I’m an active participant in Mike’s annual March Madness pool.”
- B.A., Psychology, cum laude, University of Texas, Austin
- J.D., University of Texas School of Law, Austin
- M.A., Professional Counseling, highest distinction,
- Argosy University, Phoenix
- Alternative Dispute Resolution and Family Law Sections of the State Bar of Arizona
- Association for Conflict Resolution (Practitioner status)
- Arizona Association for Conflict Resolution (Practitioner Status)
- Employee Assistance Professionals Association
- Maricopa County Association of Family Mediators
- International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
- Arizona Collaborative Colleagues (Professional Member)