Rebekah is a credentialed complex commercial insurance claims professional with more than 25 years of experience in evaluating, negotiating and settling complex casualty claims loss matters nationwide and internationally, with settlements totaling in the millions of dollars. After she earned her degree in psychology, her path led her to the insurance industry, where she became a complex commercial claims professional.
Having evaluated thousands of cases, Rebekah is masterful in navigating the negotiation process and understands the human condition, a key skill to enabling trust in the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process.
During her career, she learned how vital dispute resolution is. She believes that most people don't want to be in a dispute. They simply want equity and to move on with their lives.
Transition to JAMS
Because of her years of experience with dispute resolution in the insurance industry, Ms. Ratliff says her transition to JAMS was a very smooth process and the next logical step.
She knew it was time to make a change when a mentor told her, “Rebekah, you're doing good work as a commercial insurance claims professional, but you're living beneath your skill set.”
That was the catalyst that led her to ADR.
Her masterful negotiating skills and understanding of the human condition have made her an asset to her clients and to JAMS.
Overcoming Bias Through Mentorship
When speaking about the most significant obstacles she encountered in her career, she says the one that stands out isimplicit bias.
When she started working in the insurance industry 30 years ago, it was rare for an African-American woman to be a commercial claims professional. Nevertheless, she brokethrough barriers and had a successful 25-year career.
She notes that the lack of diversity in ADR mirrors the landscape of the legal and insurance fields. Her advice for people from underrepresented groups who are considering a different path is to seek out mentors. She believes that this allows individuals to get career assistance and plan their next moves.
“I am a mentor, and I have a panel of mentors. I think mentors help you dream beyond your capacity to dream for yourself.”
Having a mentor who suggested that she consider a move to ADR completely changed her career trajectory. “When I was given the advice to leave corporate America and my insurance career to start in mediation, it was confirmation that it was time to get out of my comfort zone.”
Advice to ADR Professionals
When it comes to mediation skills, Ms. Ratliff says good listening skills are critical, but they may be less effective if you’re not also discerning.
“Listening skills enable you to hear what the issue is, but often people can't communicate or articulate the root of the problem. It's our job as neutrals to figure out what that is so all parties can have some of their interests met.”
She also believes that patience is key. Dispute resolution is a process where everyone needs to have their say, so it's important not to rush it. Creativity is another crucial skill for a mediator to have to convey messages and decisions clearly to all parties.
When asked for her best advice to the next generation of dispute resolution leaders, she says, “Get a mentor, build relationships, bring your gifts and know that there's enough for everybody.”
Rebekah believes that organizational affiliations are essential to career growth and the ability to network. In addition, she enjoys serving her community.
She is the president of the Atlanta chapter of the National African American Insurance Association. She is also a proud member of the National Bar Association. She serves as the 2ndvice-chair of the ADR Section for the American Bar Association (ABA) and the co-chair of the Diversity Committee for the ABA’s Dispute Resolution Section.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in ADR
“I think that ADR professionals can promote initiatives in diversity, equity and inclusion by being mentors and sponsors,”Ms. Ratliff says.
She suggests referring cases to other diverse neutrals whose expertise fits that subject area or considering co-mediation to include those who may have a particular skill set you could benefit from.
“I'm the face of diversity, so I think it's important to promote, advance and amplify efforts in diversity and inclusion.”
Ms. Ratliff is the co-founder of HBCU IMPACT, which stands for insurance mentoring program, advanced career track. “My colleagues and I have established campus programs to attract,educate and employ students at historically black colleges and universities in the insurance industry.”
“I think that diversity in the industry is increasing, but not fast enough. We have to take baby steps, but we also need to all join together and make sure that we are amplifying the initiatives that will increase diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says.
From her career in the insurance industry to her transition to ADR, Rebekah says she has no regrets. She has stayed true to herself, did things her way and helped many people along the journey.