About Phil Neiman

Phil Neiman, Marin County Mediator
Mediator’s Background

Phil Neiman has been a full-time mediator since 2004. He mediates a wide range of litigated cases, specializing in business, real property, trust and estate, employment and intellectual property matters. Mr. Neiman also has extensive experience settling complex tort, professional liability, personal injury, product liability and insurance coverage disputes.

Mr. Neiman’s approach to every mediation involves the following: (1) Know the facts of the case from each side’s perspective, (2) Understand the legal issues and the strengths and weaknesses of the various arguments, (3) Make an assessment about trial outcomes, (4) Structure the session to maximize the likelihood of resolution, (5) Identify the parties’ underlying concerns, interests and priorities, (6) Ensure that everyone is heard and understood, (7) Help the participants negotiate a resolution that addresses their stated needs, (8) Conduct reality testing, (9) Work effectively and efficiently with counsel to create a settlement document that will withstand the test of time.

Regarding pre-mediation matters, Mr. Neiman states:  “As a mediator, I’m not on the evaluative side of the spectrum.  That said, to settle a case I need to evaluate it, which means mastering the material.  Pre-mediation homework is critical.  I review pleadings, supporting documents, discovery responses and deposition transcripts. I immerse or re-immerse myself in the applicable law, reading everything from governing statutes to appellate decisions to local ordinances to anything else that may prove helpful.  I’ve been known to make site visits and consult with expert witnesses.  I speak with counsel before the session, typically in separate conference calls to discuss the case in further detail and round out my understanding of the issues.”

With respect to the mediation itself, Mr. Neiman says:  “Because every dispute is unique, I don’t believe in a cookie-cutter approach to structuring the session.  Attorneys know their clients better than I do.  In some cases, a joint-session is essential to reaching resolution, while in others, a caucus-only approach is required to get the job done.  I discuss the pros and cons of same-room mediation with the attorneys, offer suggestions, aim for agreement, but in the end each lawyer has veto power on this issue.”

Mr. Neiman continues:  “It’s not a state secret that I prefer to mediate in joint session.  In my experience, same-room mediation produces better agreements for all parties and brings about settlement much faster than caucusing and mediating by shuttle diplomacy.  While same-room mediation led by the wrong mediator can be counterproductive, I am very experienced in managing these sessions and always encourage the attorneys to give it a try. For the mediator, running an effective joint session requires greater skill and many more tools, including the ability to work with intense emotion, to hear what’s not being said, to read body language, to reframe with neutrality, to use tension in a productive way, to maintain an atmosphere of calm, to know when to call a break before it’s too late and, most importantly, to adapt to whatever unfolds while keeping the process on track and everyone’s eye on the proverbial prize. My strength is in helping antagonistic parties have productive conversations. Bedlam rarely breaks out and, if it makes any difference, I offer a full refund to both sides if any punches are landed during a joint session that I’ve been trusted to manage.”

Mr. Neiman concludes: “Whether in joint session or in caucus, when people are in conflict there’s no shortage of things that can interfere with the rational resolution of their case. Emotions often 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, Mr. Neiman continues to devote a portion of his practice to Deal Mediation, acting as a neutral third-party in the formation of complex business transactions.  He was a pioneer in this field, which involves using the mediator’s skills, tools and techniques to assist attorneys, whose clients are on opposite sides of a business opportunity, navigate a range of issues when negotiating the terms of mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, joint ventures, financings and other significant corporate agreements. Mr. Neiman is highly regarded for his ability to discern parties’ core interests, identify pie-expanding solutions and help work through impasse – the same skills that are essential to his success as a mediator when settling cases.

After graduating from UCLA School of Law in 1990 and practicing law in Los Angeles, Mr. Neiman 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, Mr. Neiman began mediating conflicts and facilitating transactions for his corporate and institutional clients, and shortly thereafter launched a full-time mediation practice.

Mr. Neiman brings vast experience and extensive training to his role as mediator. He excels at helping people in high-conflict situations find resolution. 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.

In addition to his private mediation practice, Mr. Neiman serves as the Court Mediation Program Director for The Congress of Neutrals, a California non-profit corporation. In that capacity, he oversees a team of approximately 30 volunteer mediators who settle cases on the day of trial in the Contra Costa County Superior Court. He is also responsible for training and development of the organization’s mediators, leading an annual 40-hour basic skills class, teaching advanced courses on mediation techniques and mentoring new mediators in settlement conferences.