Attorneys & Mediators
Mediaton | Negotiation | Litigation Strategy
“He is one of the best problem solvers that I have worked with... he knows how to quickly assess a matter and plot a course to the finish line.”- William Bernstein, Esq. - Executive Vice President, Ret. Paramount Pictures, Co-Founder/President, Orion Pictures Corporation, Executive Vice President, Ret., United Artists Corporation, Yale Law School
Donald Wolfe is a partner in a boutique San Diego based law firm focused on mediation, negotiation and litigation support within the areas of Employment, Real Estate, Business and Entertainment law.
EXPERIENCE THAT MATTERS
Donald Wolfe is a well-rounded mediator, negotiator and attorney. Over the last fifteen years Mr. Wolfe has mediated, negotiated and litigated cases involving employment, entertainment, real estate, corporate/business, probate, personal injury, state and federal tax, and bankruptcy adversary matters.
KNOWS HOW TO MEDIATE DISPUTES AND NEGOTIATE DEALS
Mr. Wolfe developed a reputation early on in his litigation career as being an effective negotiator and problem solver. An effective mediator must in essence be an effective negotiator. Mr. Wolfe’s extensive negotiation experience is the bedrock of his effectiveness as a mediator. Mr. Wolfe has negotiated deal points and settlement agreements in both domestic and international matters.
KNOWS HOW TO FIND A COURTROOM
It is difficult for a mediator to resolve a litigated dispute if the mediator has never litigated a case. Litigation experience provides a mediator with both contextual and subject matter credibility and resolution insight in a way that cannot be obtained through transactional experience alone. Mr. Wolfe is admitted to practice law in all state and federal courts in California. He has represented both sides of the bar in taking cases from initial intake to bench or jury. Having litigated numerous cases, he understands the costs and risks attendant to litigation along with the party interests that drive litigation. Due to his innovative approach to mediation and dispute resolution, Mr. Wolfe has been retained to provide litigation, mediation and negotiation strategy by other attorneys in their own cases.
LOOKED TO AS AN AUTHORITY IN MEDIATION AND NEGOTIATION
Mr. Wolfe is an adjunct professor at the Pepperdine School of Law – Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution where he teaches Negotiation Theory and Practice. Mr. Wolfe instructs other attorneys and business executives on negotiation strategy and mediation technique through seminars and private consultation. Mr. Wolfe is the creator of the Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick – Negotiation Lessons for Lawyers program which is a State Bar of California CLE approved presentation created to provide negotiation training for lawyers. Mr. Wolfe provides on-air legal commentary for KUSI Channel 9 out of San Diego, California.
ALWAYS LOOKING TO IMPROVE
Mr. Wolfe has recently completed a sabbatical whereby he studied in depth the negotiation and mediation strategies utilized to ink the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War. In the course of his research he traveled to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C. and Tokyo, Japan in order to research and study the techniques used to successfully mediate of the Russo-Japanese War. Drawing a corollary between the combatants’ emotional and economic interests involved in warfare and modern day litigation, Mr. Wolfe used his research as the foundation of creating a dispute resolution process that has proven highly effective in resolving even the most difficult prelitigation and litigated disputes.
PART OF THE SOLUTION
Donald Wolfe serves as an integral part in solving and resolving legal disputes. Mr. Wolfe’s experience in the areas of mediation, litigation and negotiation have laid the groundwork to effectively and consistently bridge the gap between contentious parties and litigants thus eliminating the need for costly, protracted and uncertain litigation. Serving as a mediator, Mr. Wolfe provides assistance in all stages of dispute resolution with the goal of leading the embattled parties to a comprehensive and global resolution.
WHAT SHOULD LAWYERS LOOK FOR IN A MEDIATOR?
Before anything else, someone that they can trust. That rings of being a silly platitude but it is truly essential. I’ve sat through mediations in the past where I was being told or my client was being told to take a deal from a mediator and it wasn’t entirely clear if the mediator really thought that we should accept a deal because of what the mediator was hearing in the other room or because the mediator was looking at his watch and hoping to beat the traffic at the merge on the commute home. There are certain bends in every mediation whereby the attorneys and their clients are looking for guidance from the mediator. Without a foundational level of trust, guidance or direction from the mediator at the times when it is needed most becomes suspect rather than helpful.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE IN THE OTHER ROOM?
The dance. And by this I mean the delicate process of building trust and uncovering the positions and the underlying reasons for the positions of each party. Also, negotiations – lots of them. I think that the role of the mediator is at core, to provide negotiation strategy and insight to each party after the mediator has obtained a thorough understanding of the all the moving parts. When the plaintiff is considering an opening offer of $2,000,000.00 on a garden variety wrongful termination claim for their client who was terminated after a solid four days of employment, two of which were sick days, it would not be unusual for a discussion to occur with the plaintiff as to the effectiveness of such an opening — which will lead to a mini-negotiation with the plaintiff as to what the best course of action may be. Along the same lines, when defense counsel in an employment case wants to make an opening offer of $1,000.00 on a case that involves managerial conduct of the “Filner Headlock” type, a similar discussion and negotiation will occur. Remember, I am in both rooms. I have information that you don’t. Let me help you. See above as to the importance of trust.
WHAT CAN LAWYERS DO TO INCREASE THE CHANCES OF LEAVING A MEDIATION WITH A SIGNED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT?
Overused, but facts are facts – come prepared. Each side is in possession of information that they wish didn’t exist and information that shores up their position. Find this out. Although I will likely stumble upon this throughout the day, it will help me in large degree for the lawyers to have done some fact finding beforehand. By doing so the attorney reduces the risk that I am missing something important that can be used to move the matter into settlement. Also, talk and I really mean talk with your client before the mediation —I know, I know — sometimes you don’t even like your client. But, understanding the case and meeting with the client beforehand also reduces the always fun “oh by the way” information that clients have a way of unloading for the first time in the middle of a mediation. Know the good and bad of your case.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT STARTING WITH JOINT CAUCUS?
Let’s see, we place two parties in a room that don’t want to be in a room together (remember — they’re suing each other or on the ledge of doing so), then if we follow the traditional protocols, we allow each attorney to Educate the other side with an overview of their respective client’s position along with the attorneys slant on the merits, which for the receiving party usually progresses internally from annoyance to aggravation to old testament fury, then we send them back into their rooms so we can start moving toward settlement. Does this sound like a good idea?
WHAT ABOUT MEDIATION BRIEFS?
I like confidential mediation briefs. I think that mediators that want the briefs shared upfront don’t appreciate that most attorneys aren’t inclined to neatly map out their case for the other side. Confidential briefs allow each side to provide true arguments in a way that allows a mediator to gauge each side’s position based upon their best arguments.
WHEN YOU WERE REPRESENTING CLIENTS IN MEDIATIONS WHAT DID YOU HATE TO HEAR THE MEDIATOR SAY?
“Sorry folks, out of ideas. Doesn’t look like it’s going to get done today (after the first fifteen minutes and the fee is earned and non-refundable) I’ve got dinner plans at 5:30 tonight (when getting close to a deal) but I’ve had my secretary check my calendar and I can schedule you for another session (and fee) in two weeks.” Yelling at me and or my client to “take the deal” because it is a Great Deal – when a much better deal is struck two hours later. Bringing the first offer over at 3:00 in the afternoon (see comment on offering to schedule a new session above).
HOW DO I SCHEDULE A MEDIATION WITH YOU?
Please call or email my office and my case manager will assist you in finding dates. Due to my schedule, I am usually 30 days out on appointments.
I AM IN BOTH ROOMS.
I HAVE INFORMATION THAT YOU DON’T.
LET ME HELP YOU.
750 B Street, 23rd Floor
San Diego, California 92101
Please call or email my office and my case manager will assist you in finding dates.