Patrick Ward is an attorney-mediator in private practice.  His practice focuses on helping people find peaceful resolutions to family issues like divorce, guardianship appointments and agreements about parenting time.  Patrick helps people find emotionally healthy and child-centered solutions to family disputes.  Patrick has been volunteering his mediation services with Six Rivers since 2021.  Additionally, he also has contracted with Six Rivers to offer services on a sliding fee basis that only an Oregon attorney-mediator can provide, such as preparing Oregon parenting plans to submit to the court if the parties request this service.  Six Rivers appreciates the skill and compassion Patrick brings to family mediation.

We asked Patrick how he began his journey with Six Rivers.  “As an attorney, I represented the State of Oregon in child welfare cases for years and years. The work became emotionally draining and I needed to find a different and better way to help families in crisis and in conflict. I found mediation. And, then I found Six Rivers. At the time, I was volunteering with another Dispute Resolution Program who offered neighbor-to-neighbor mediation. I am particularly committed to helping families who are in conflict, through divorce or parenting time disputes, and learned that Six Rivers is committed to helping those families in the gorge community and I immediately jumped to the opportunity to be a part of the program.”

Patrick offered some insight on what it is like being a volunteer with Six Rivers. “Working with Six Rivers is pretty fantastic. The other mediators at Six Rivers are an incredible resource and very skilled. I love the co-mediation model. Every time I co-mediate with someone, I learn a new skill or a new way of helping our clients. And, I feel supported by the Six Rivers team. There are a number of training opportunities, which is so important to being a skilled mediator. There are always opportunities to get better as a mediator.”  Six Rivers prefers co-mediation:  two mediators working together throughout the mediation.

Patrick expanded on his answer by talking about what he finds most rewarding about volunteering at Six Rivers. “First, the opportunity to help clients work through difficult and challenging situations. Second, the community. Mediators are typically kind people who are committed to helping and to empathetically providing clients with space and time to work through whatever the issue is that brought them in the door. It is an absolute pleasure to spend time around the community at Six Rivers.”

Patrick highlighted his strongest beliefs about mediation of family issues. 

“First, as a mediator, I think it is essential to focus on the questions about the client’s underlying needs. So that means exploring their goals, exploring underlying interest, and exploring their values. As a mediator, especially as a family mediator, the underlying values of a client are essential because family mediation is potentially life-changing. Knowing what is important to clients (be it relationships, wealth, respect, or competency) could help me work with the clients and explore options for short and long-term resolution.”

“Second, I think it is important for mediators to be flexible in the way they approach clients. The needs of each client are different. And it is important for me as a mediator to really acknowledge those differences, celebrate them, and then be flexible in how I approach the mediation. In many ways, the tools are the same, and flexibility comes from the way that the mediator uses the tools. During mediation, I constantly ask myself whether the tools I’m using are meeting the client’s needs. I constantly ask myself whether the clients have sufficient enough information, resources, and space necessary to make the decisions for themselves.”

Patrick’s law firm is aptly named Clarity Law.  According to the firm’s website, Clarity Law provides mediation and collaborative law services for families.  Here’s how Patrick explains these two services.  “Mediation and collaborative divorce services are closely related. As a mediator, I am an impartial third-party helping clients with various issues related to their family situation. As a collaborative attorney, I am part of the family’s collaborative team. The collaborative team is the clients, the collaboratively trained attorneys, and any other professionals necessary to help the family. The attorneys represent each of the individual clients, and also support the process and resolution. Everyone is committed to good faith resolution. Part of collaborative representation is giving my client the tools to help them make their own decisions in their best interest. Like mediation, a collaborative practice empowers the clients to be their advocates during meetings.

I recommend collaborative over mediation when one client needs support in the joint session to help them walk through the tough decisions. Both mediation and collaborative are interest-based negotiation tools and allow clients to explore their needs for the present and future.

One of the things that I love about both collaborative and mediation is the flexibility each provides to clients. I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all processes, and both mediation and collaborative encourage flexibility. The goal is to support the clients as they make challenging decisions.

Patrick devotes most of his professional energy to collaborative services and mediation with families facing conflict and change.  We asked Patrick why this is so important to him. “I practiced as a child welfare attorney for a long time. Over time, I found that the court system fails families. I stopped working in child welfare when I could no longer continue to be a source of trauma on families. I know that there is conflict, and conflict within families, and I needed to be a source of resolution rather than a source of further conflict. Mediation allows me to work towards solutions for families in conflict together and help them resolve issues efficiently. Conflict can be acute or chronic. I hope that I can help families keep the conflict acute.”

Happily – although he acknowledges that “running a small business is pretty all-consuming” – Patrick also makes sure that he gets to do what he loves most:   “spending time with family.”    Patrick also enjoys trail running, bouldering (usually indoors) and skiing.  One of his goals is to climb Mt. Hood soon.  

Patrick also shared this wonderful story about his non-work life: 

“I have been married for 28 years to a fantastic person named Laura. And we have a wonderful daughter named Olivia and I am lucky to be with them both. Laura will sometimes call herself Vintage Lady Jumpman. Laura played college basketball at the University of Portland and is 6 feet, 2 inches tall. In the late 80s, she appeared on a Nike poster, showing her about to dunk a basketball. The photo was taken at an old YMCA in Portland. Periodically, we would see the poster pop-up. We saw it for sale at Nike Town a few years after it was published, between a poster of Michael Jordan and the Trailblazers. And, about 10 years after it was published, we saw it hanging in a house for sale in a work-out room. Then, about three months ago, we found the poster for sale on eBay. And, it was titled, Vintage Lady Jumpman.

And, finally, when asked what he wanted most for people to know about Six Rivers, this is Patrick’s response:  “One of the great benefits of Six Rivers is that it offers a Co mediation model for clients. I think that benefits clients as it allows them to take advantage of multiple and different thought processes. I think that is one of the fantastic benefits Six Rivers provides that I wish other dispute resolution services provided. Also, even just knowing that Six Rivers is an option for the counties it serves is important. I would like mediation to be the default model for resolution, rather than litigation (or simply yelling at each other.) Mediation is such a flexible way of addressing disputes and I would hope that Six Rivers can be a known resource for the community.

To read more news from Six Rivers, please check out our Winter 2023 newsletter.