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Laura Farrow, Mediator, Former Mccutchen Partner

Reprinted with permission from the May 10, 2005 issue of The Recorder.

Laura Farrow, a mediator and former partner at what was then McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, died May 3 of colon cancer. She was 50.

A 1980 graduate of Boalt Hall School of Law, Farrow was the first female editor-in-chief of the school’s California Law Review. Friends and colleagues said she was intellectual and spiritual, and once spent her vacations following the Grateful Dead.

“Her ride was way too short but she sure had what Disneyland used to call an E ticket,” said Jon Sakol, her mentor at McCutchen.

Sakol was struck by the “staggering number of communities in which she had a foot and touched people so deeply.” He said her memorial service Sunday drew a huge crowd of lawyers from big firms, mediators, members of spiritual organizations and four “Dead Heads” who flew in from Utah.

Farrow was “absolutely a brilliant litigator and fabulous writer,” Sakol said. “She wrote the most devastating single paragraph I have ever read in a legal brief.”

He said in a few words she summed up every fact in the case so “you knew the other side could do nothing about it.” For years Sakol, now retired from Bingham McCutchen, cited the brief in teaching lawyers in the firm how to write a summary judgment motion.

Sakol said Farrow took a unique approach to employment law mediations, using the no-caucus approach favored in family law. In this type of mediation, opposing parties meet together with the mediator.

Karen Stevenson, executive director of Legal Aid of Napa Valley and Farrow’s best friend in law school, said Farrow graduated among the top of her class with apparent ease.

“She was the kind of person who could spend the pre-exam break reading Trollope, seeming not to study, and get high grades,” Stevenson said.

“She was an extraordinary person and had a tremendous enthusiasm for and curiosity about life,” Stevenson said.

After graduating, Farrow spent a year clerking for Judge Cecil Poole in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. She joined McCutchen in 1981 and later became a partner in the labor and employment department. She left in 1991 to become a mediator based in Mill Valley. She was a panelist with the American Arbitration Association and taught mediation at Boalt, Stanford Law School and UC Davis’ King Hall School of Law.

Farrow was a Buddhist and member of the Gangaji Foundation, a spiritual organization. She wove her spiritual philosophy into her approach to mediation, advocating on her Web site that people “use conflict as a force for positive change.”

Farrow is survived by her parents, Patricia and Laurence Hammond, one sister, three brothers and many nieces and nephews.


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