Of all things that mediation and racecar driving have in common—a need for intense preparation and a cool head under pressure, for example—you might not expect to see “great patience” on the list. But patience is one of the skills Bill Baten of Van Winkle Baten Dispute Resolution in Indianapolis deploys whether he’s on the track or in the meeting room.
Patience and persistence. “One of the major compliments I get from mediation participants,” Baten told us in the 2007 issue of Indiana Super Lawyers Magazine, “is that they appreciate the fact that I don’t give up and continually try to approach the problem from different angles.”
In the mid-1990s, as Baten was building his practice, he got involved in the sport by volunteering as a corner worker, waving flags to caution drivers about changing track conditions. Then, in 1997, he started the ignition in earnest.
To finance this new hobby, Baten parted with his prized 1966 Big Block Corvette convertible, purchased as a gift to himself upon graduating from Georgetown Law in 1987. With the proceeds, he bought a Camaro, a trailer, a tow vehicle and spare parts. And then, sans any formal training or warm-up races in lesser cars, he slid into his Camaro, fired up the motor and, with [wife] Valerie serving as his first pit crew chief, roared out onto the track.
Bill Baten, it turns out, is a natural race car driver. At age 37, he was named “Rookie of the Year.” The tenacity and creativity that have fueled his mediation career come in handy when weaving in and out of traffic, choosing new lines through turns and doggedly staying with the pack when he finds himself lagging behind the leaders.
He is “by nature, very competitive.” He has a need for speed. “[Racing] is where I let my competitive juices flow,” he says. “You really can’t do that in mediation, when you’re trying to help both sides.”
In describing his passion, Baten quotes fellow speedster Paul Newman, who continues to race into his 80s. “Newman [once said] that he was never good at any sport, but that auto racing was the first thing he’d actually been good at doing from the start,” he says. Then he adds, “At a late age, it was so great to be doing something that came to me naturally.”