How I Made It: Angela Reddock-Wright helps keep businesses, and people, out of courtrooms
Angela Reddock-Wright, 49, is president of the Southern California Mediation Assn., which describes itself as “the biggest professional mediator association in Southern California for those who provide mediation services or work in the area of conflict resolution.” Mediation can be used in many situations as a cheaper and quicker alternative to court in disputes between companies, between merchants and their customers, and between business associates, to name just a few. She is founder and managing partner of the Reddock Law Group in Los Angeles, an employment law firm.
There were many things that seemed to set Reddock-Wright on a path of bridging differences between people. Born in Germany as the daughter of a U.S. Army sergeant first class (now retired), and after briefly living in Birmingham, Ala., Reddock-Wright moved again and was living with her mother in Los Angeles. She traveled every school day between Compton and the Brentwood School of Los Angeles, two neighborhoods with stark differences in median incomes and poverty levels.
“I loved both worlds, and I appreciated both worlds, and I actually tried to bring both worlds together when I could” often inviting friends from both areas to the same parties and events.
Advisor and mentor
While attending Amherst College, Reddock-Wright said, “I was a peer counselor in my junior year, which meant I got to talk to other students about any challenges or problems they had, but as a part of that same program, the school would match us to mentors based on what we thought we may want to do. They matched me with Samuel G. Jackson Jr., an alumnus and a lawyer in Los Angeles.” She spent a lot of time learning about his business and “he really inspired me to think about becoming an attorney. Law school seemed like a natural path.”
It was an earlier experience, with her grandmother, Fletta Jones Gills, that Reddock-Wright credits as another influence in her life choices. When grandma was marching for better wages and working conditions for her convalescent care union in Birmingham, she brought young Angela along. “It’s so embedded in my memory,” Reddock-Wright said, “and when people ask me how did you go on to decide to be a lawyer or do the community work you do, I remember that as being one example of what shaped my view of the world.” She also credits her parents, Wilma Gills Hairston and Cornelius “Neal” Reddock, Jr. “My success has been a family affair,” she said. “I attribute it to both my parents and both sides of my family.”
Litigate to mediate
“When I first started practicing,” Reddock-Wright said, “it was all about litigating the dispute no matter what side you were on. You were fiercely advocating for your client, and over a period of time, I realized so many of these disputes could be resolved.… So I was still litigating, but I moved from a place of only focusing on fiercely advocating for my client to saying, ‘Hey, what can we do or what kind of discussion can we have about resolving these issues early on?’”
“I have seen employers and employees at their worse. My mission throughout my career has been to help bridge the gap that divides employers and employees,” she said. “There were people that couldn’t sleep. They couldn’t eat. It was impacting their relationships, other parts of their lives, and that’s awful, so now to be in a place where I can use all of my experience to help create healthier work environments to help influence policy, to help influence employers to do the right thing when given the opportunity to do so, to me, that’s very, very powerful.”
When she is wearing “my Southern California Mediation hat I will get called in two instances,” Reddock-Wright said, “one where an employer and employee are in the middle of litigation with one another or just beginning litigation, or an actual lawsuit has been filed, and then they want to bring someone in either early on or during the litigation to try to get the case resolved through a settlement.”
Reddock-Wright does “quite a few mediations, and then the last thing I do is training. I will go in to an employment environment and do sexual harassment training for managers and employees. I’ve been doing a lot of diversity and inclusion training.”
Reddock-Wright says she lives by two mottoes — “To whom much is given, much is required,” and “Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy here on Earth.”
Reddock-Wright has served on several boards and other entities, including as a founding member of the board of directors and former board chairwoman of the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute, in partnership with USC.
“At every step of the way,” Reddock-Wright said, “at every stage, there was someone who helped make an opportunity possible for me, and so I feel that the least I can do is to give that same energy back, and where I can, give those same opportunities back through helping others, and volunteering, and supporting causes that are important.”
“I lead by example, and I try promoting the importance of the team and not any one individual,” Reddock-Wright said. “There is nothing I ask my team to do that I am not willing to do. I believe it is important for a leader to roll up her sleeves and show that she is willing to do the not so glorious work and that it is about the team effort,” Reddock-Wright said. “I also try to model the attitude I want team members to have — a commitment to excellence, respect for one another and our clients, and a willingness to go above and beyond to get the job done.”
Lots of work
“Many people are under the impression that because of the #MeToo movement, that that’s pretty much the majority of what we’re doing as employment lawyers now, but really, it’s just one piece of it,” Reddock-Wright said. One of her current clients is the Screen Actors Guild. She works “with them to help update their sexual harassment reporting policies and practices for members.”
Reddock-Wright said, “We are doing much more in terms of sexual harassment, but we’re also still seeing our garden-variety employment case, race discrimination. I’m seeing quite a bit of age discrimination, as the baby boomer population starts to retire or can’t retire and still needs to be in the workplace.”
“I just did an employee handbook for a client this year, and I was very careful to go through the handbook and make it gender neutral, whereas last year there would be references throughout that said if employee X approaches you, the common term would be he/she. Now I went through the handbook and took out all the he/she references and made it neutral, so even just in the last year things have changed quite significantly to where, when we’re writing policies and we’re coming up with practices referencing people, we have to be really sensitive to all of the changes that are taking place.”
In November, Reddock-Wright and her husband, Steven E. Wright, will have been married six years. “I teach eighth grade Sunday school, which helps keep me young, connected to young people, and active in the women’s ministry at my church,” she said. “And honestly, my favorite thing to do is spending time with family and friends over a great meal, just laughing and talking and catching up.”