Starting January 20, 2011 the Thursday 10pm, 9c slot of the USA Network’s line up will be filled with a new show, “Fairly Legal.” If you are not familiar with the show yet, allow me to give you a quick rundown. Once a lawyer at her family’s esteemed San Francisco firm, Kate’s (the protagonist’s) frustration with the legal system led her to a new career as a mediator. Pause for applause. Thanks to her innate understanding of human nature, thorough legal knowledge, and wry sense of humor, Kate is a natural when it comes to dispute resolution.

With all the lawyer dramas out there, I have often wondered how long it would take for there to be a mediation show and if scripted, as it should be for numerous reasons, how real the show would be. Of course, I have not seen the premier just yet and am anticipating it with a cautious amount of excitement. From what I have seen in the previews, I am growing a bit weary at the depiction of my and so many other’s profession.

If I had to guess, I would have to say that Kate is a very evaluative mediator. Her style is a bit controlling and a tad facetious, but most certainly done for entertainment purposes; after all the show is somewhat a comedy. What is interesting is the use of mediation as that vehicle to deliver laughs into our lives. By no means do I find it offensive; on the contrary, I believe that with all the time I spend trying to educate and introduce the public to the alternative dispute resolution method of mediation, it will now be much easier. Now I will not have to give example such as the Wedding Crashers and the conflict in the Middle East, rather, I will be able to use two simple words, “fairly legal”—provided that the show sticks around long enough for the majority of people to catch on.

Mediation is serious business and my personal hope for this show is that it will demonstrate all the benefits of this process. Versatility, ease, and cost should be at the top of the list for the writers and creators of the show. In every dispute that Kate gets into, she will be able to find an amicable solution to. Perhaps not immediately, but as all good mediators know, it takes time and effort in order to reach a settlement. Whether personally or professionally, I know that we all try to use our knowledge of dispute resolution to prevent complicating issues and find a swift, mutually satisfactory resolution.

The character seems very much in control of all negotiations and meetings as well as being strong, powerful, and quick on her feet. One can only hope that this is how she is perceived in mediation. The message that the show sends seems to be one of compromise, peace, and self-empowerment. Not incidentally, these are also some of the benefits of mediation, but the real question is whether or not the viewers will buy into the process and take away a slight bit more than just a few laughs. Personally, I am betting they will.

History is a great teacher of trendsetting and just like with automobiles, beverages, smoking or not smoking, fashion and those great 1980’s Japanese business techniques, television will once again prove to be instrumental in transforming our stubborn beliefs and habits. There is only one thing left to do, tune in and hope for the best.

by Alex Dukhovny

Alex Dukhovny is an owner and operator of two mediation companies, Right Triangle Mediation and American Mediation of Los Angeles County.