Getting to Know Mediator Matthew Kiernan

Matthew G. Kiernan, former Public Administrator of Suffolk County as appointed by the Surrogates Court, mediates and arbitrates cases for Mediation Solutions in Surrogate’s Court matters (estates and trusts, probate), municipal law, and personal injury. He brings decades of legal experience that includes time in private practice, public service, the court system, and academia. Kiernan also serves as Counsel at Burner Prudenti Law with a focus on trust and estate matters.

Learn more about his approach to mediation below in our Q&A with him.

Man wearing Grey suit with a Red blue striped tie.
Matthew Kiernan, Esq.

Tell us a little bit about your career before Mediation Solutions

I have served as the Public Administrator for the County of Suffolk, appointed by the Surrogate of Suffolk County from 1998-2002, and again from 2018-2023. As Public Administrator, I served as the fiduciary in hundreds of estates and guardianships and coordinated estate administration and litigation with outside counsel.

I was Special Counsel to the Chief Administrative Judge of the State of New York from 2011-2016, advising the Chief Administrative Judge issues involved with the administration and operation of the New York State court system, assisting the Chief Administrative Judge in working collaboratively with the executive and legislative branches of government.

Before beginning my work with the Chief Administrative Judge, I was the Deputy Clerk of the Court and Director of Professional Services, and then Clerk of the Court for the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department. I also served as the Director of the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission and implemented the procedures employed by the Commission and developed the forms used in evaluating the qualifications of candidates for judicial office.

I gained experience with Surrogate’s Court practice and Surrogate’s Court matters as Principal Law Clerk to the Surrogate of Suffolk County, supervising the discovery phase of contested proceedings and the preparation of those proceedings for trial, as well as supervising the Probate Department and drafting decisions on uncontested applications and post-trial and post-hearing matters.

After leaving the court system, I joined the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University where I worked in a number of positions from 2016-2018 including Associate Dean of Academic Operations, Faculty Administrative Editor of the Family Court Review, and Adjunct Professor, teaching the Family Court Review Seminar and the Guardianship 17-A Practicum.

William Condon, Nancy Burner, Allison Johs and Matthew Kiernan
Matthew Kiernan (far right) at Mediation Solutions grand opening with (L-R) mediator William Condon and founders Nancy Burner and Allison Johs

What kinds of cases do you mediate? Can you give us some examples?

My area of expertise is trust and estates, but I believe my background and experience are well suited to help resolve a wide range of civil matters, including municipal law, and personal injury and negligence. In Surrogate’s Court, for example, we often dealt with cases where a family member was contesting a will. This can be related to the validity of the will, interpretation of a will, breach of fiduciary duty, property distribution, or disagreements about the care of a loved one.

What advantages do you see for lawyers and their clients in choosing mediation to resolve their disputes?

This can be a highly personal and emotional process and mediation offers the opportunity to find a resolution while preserving family relationships. Mediation has already demonstrated that it affords the parties a proven method to resolve their disputes in a more timely and affordable manner than traditional avenues while also permitting the participants intimate and immediate access to a neutral, qualified expert.

Can you tell us a little bit about your approach as a mediator to help the parties reach a resolution, and what do think are the most important qualities of a good mediator?

A good settlement has often been described as one in which neither party is happy with the outcome. While that sentiment may ring true immediately after an accord is reached, once the flames of litigation have cooled, both sides realize that the compromise is in the best interests of all involved. My approach is to truly listen closely, be patient, and show empathy – make sure that I understand and acknowledge the feelings of all parties involved.

It is paramount that the mediator gains the trust and credibility of both sides. If the parties fail to reach this connection, their search for the right mediator is not over.

What can the parties expect from the mediation process and how can parties prepare for mediation?

Parties can expect the opportunity to have their voice heard and their positions considered by a neutral party charged with helping the parties realize both the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments in the quest to reach a middle ground.

Parties should arrive at the mediation with an open mind, devoid, to the extent possible, of emotion and pre-conceived bias and with the strong desire to resolve their issues and move on with their lives.

The process is a negotiation with the goal of finding a mutually beneficial solution. This isn’t the courtroom where there may be winners and losers.

To learn more about Matt, read his full bio here, or to submit a request for mediation with him, contact our office at 631-415-4310.

Matthew Kiernan and his wife Cheryl at an outdoor event
Matthew Kiernan and his wife, Cheryl.