Phil Neiman mediates civil litigation disputes, focusing on commercial, real estate, intellectual property, business tort, and employment cases. He has extensive experience resolving investment-related disputes, complex contractual claims, and insurance matters.
“People and businesses who are in the middle of a conflict, and the attorneys who represent them, frequently benefit from having a neutral third party help them find a way to resolve the case without turning the result over to a judge or jury,” Phil explains. “As a mediator, my job is to settle cases, and I am successful because of my style and process, not because I browbeat litigants and counsel into submission. I am very effective at helping people have difficult conversations in the most constructive way possible. I create a safe and productive environment in which to do this. I focus on building trust and rapport with the parties and counsel. I encourage those affected by the dispute to discuss how the situation has disrupted their business and personal lives. I ask the attorneys to reflect on the strengths of the other side’s case and the risks of going to trial in light of applicable law and associated costs. I task everyone with identifying their settlement needs and the reasons for their demands. I am in charge of facilitating these discussions and then quarterbacking the settlement negotiations.”
In describing his approach to mediation, Phil notes that “many neutrals place the two sides in separate rooms during the session and engage in shuttle diplomacy to settle the case. They want to keep them as far away from one another as possible!” Phil says: “I work differently, keeping everyone together during the mediation as long as possible so that the two sides can get a clear sense of one another’s views and understand what it will take to resolve the dispute. My approach is very effective, and it ultimately produces better settlements. I recognize that many litigants and counsel are uncomfortable sitting in a room with their adversaries, so I ask everyone to trust my process and a settlement rate of over 90% that speaks for itself.”
“Mediating the way I do requires a higher skill level, including advanced reframing tools, a bolder approach to reality testing, and a facility working with high emotion. I serve the parties and counsel by staying intensely engaged throughout the process, remaining calm in the face of heated exchanges, using tension in a productive way, maintaining a sense of humor, and continually searching for common ground as a basis for settlement. It also helps that I ban the term ‘impasse’ from my mediation room: Frequently, just when resolution appears impossible, a breakthrough occurs and the case resolves.”
“When people are in conflict, a host of obstacles can interfere with the rational resolution of their dispute. Emotions, for example, frequently interfere with a party’s ability to make proposals, consider counteroffers, and handle strategic moves by the other side. My role is to help everyone navigate the negotiation process. I rely on my business background to remain focused on putting together the deal. This involves working with both sides to soften demands, identify critical needs, prioritize wish list items, brainstorm new solutions, find low-cost/high-value trades, and then build a settlement agreement that will last. Offering constructive feedback and engaging in reality testing are significant parts of the process.”
In addition to his dispute resolution work, Phil devotes a portion of his practice to Deal Mediation, acting as a neutral third-party who helps companies form optimal business transactions. Phil was a pioneer in this field, also known as Deal Facilitation, which involves using the mediator’s skills, techniques, and methods in a business setting to guide corporations, investors, stakeholders, and their negotiators through the process of forming better deals.
In describing his role as a deal facilitator, Phil explains: “When most people think of a mediator, it’s in the context of a dispute. My work is different. I am asked by the parties on both sides of a business opportunity to help them create a transaction. In other words, I am called in to mediate the formation of a deal when there is no conflict. I see my role as helping each side’s negotiators to negotiate better. My job is to oversee the dealmaking process, to help the parties identify economic value, and to help them put together the richest possible deal for everyone involved.”
After graduating from UCLA School of Law in 1990 and practicing law in Los Angeles, Phil worked as an investment banker for 10 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rochon Capital Group, Ltd., a member firm of the National Association of Securities Dealers (now, FINRA), where he originated, structured and marketed debt and equity financings across a range of industries, including software, electronics, manufacturing, publishing and consumer products. He worked with hedge funds, portfolio managers, pension funds, endowments, and other institutional investors, facilitating the negotiation of private placement transactions and structured financings for public and private issuers.
After his retirement from banking in 2004, Phil began mediating conflicts and facilitating transactions for his corporate and institutional clients, and shortly thereafter launched a full-time mediation practice.
Phil brings vast experience and extensive training to his role as mediator. He excels at helping people in high-conflict situations find resolution, using an interest-based facilitative model that emphasizes transparency in the negotiation process. He draws on an extensive business background and years as a skilled dealmaker to assist parties identify options for mutual gain, assess benefits and downside risks to their alternatives, and ultimately reach agreements that are better than those they could make on their own.
Phil volunteers substantial time in his community, serving as a supervising mediator for the California Superior Court in Contra Costa County, as a civil settlement conference panelist through various court-connected ADR programs in the Bay Area, and as a panel mediator for the Office of Citizen Complaints in San Francisco. He is the Marin County Program Director for The Congress of Neutrals (TCON), a California non-profit corporation, and also serves on its Board of Directors. In 2013, TCON named Phil its “Mediator of the Year” for his work settling cases on the day-of-trial and mentoring new mediators. Phil was previously a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Marin County.