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MIAMI — At first blush, a busty, bikini-clad blonde sunning on a seaside cliff has nothing to do with the practice of mediation. At second blush, the blonde — Miss February in the Florida Mediation Group’s 2005 calendar — still has no connection to dispute resolution. So why did the Miami-based mediation group, made up of 25 attorney-mediators, pay to have its name emblazoned across the bottom of a 2005 swimsuit calendar — a practice more commonly associated with hardware firms, trucking companies and auto parts suppliers? The group’s president and mediation director, Allene Nicholson, said the swimsuit calendar was just one of several themed calendars her staff chose to distribute this year. The calendars were on display at the firm and could be picked up if a client chose. “We wouldn’t have mailed that one out,” she said. “But if somebody wanted to pick it up for a chuckle, that’s fine.” She said she had heard no complaints and that “we’ve had several gentlemen who said they liked them.” (We add, for the record, that the bikini-clad ladies are not licensed mediators and cannot handle your dispute.) But not everyone was chuckling. Several female attorneys told Recorder affiliate the Miami Daily Business Review they found the content of the calendars as tasteless and cheesy as the 1980s-style swimsuits and faux seaside scenery featured in the mediation group’s calendar. “It’s very inappropriate,” said Ellen Freidan, an attorney at Akerman Senterfitt’s Miami office. “Mediators are almost an arm of the court and are certainly viewed that way by clients and lay people. For them to distribute a calendar that portrays women as sex objects demeans women lawyers and women who are involved in the legal system.” The executive board of the Miami-Dade chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers also objected. In a written statement, the group said, “We believe this type of advertising, whether picturing men or women, does not promote dignity in the law and is inappropriate when circulated by an organization that serves the legal community.” Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Fredricka Smith also voiced objections the calendar. “It’s hard to believe that a group of professional attorneys dedicated to effectively resolving conflict would advertise their services with a calendar showing women in bikinis. Why haven’t they learned this is inappropriate and offensive? I hesitate to draw any more attention to this, but simply suggest that mediators with better judgment be selected by the court,” Smith said. Nicholson was taken aback when the story came out. She sent a letter to the editor for publication. “I want to apologize to women, fellow attorneys and members of the judiciary who were offended by the bathing suit calendar,” the letter began. “As an active participant in the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s, I understand your concerns. Apparently I have mellowed too much with age,” Nicholson wrote. She added that there still are “lots of calendars left.” Many seem to have less controversial themes: African art, Norman Rockwell, golf tips and “America the Beautiful.” Jessica M. Walker is a reporter with the Miami Daily Business Review, a Recorder affiliate.

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