Q&A With MSNY Mediator Lauren Wachtler

Lauren J Wachtler
Lauren J. Wachtler, Esq.

Lauren J. Wachtler, Esq. is a member of our esteemed panel of mediators and arbitrators. We caught up with her recently to find out more about her and her thoughts on mediation.

Can you give us a little background about your career?

I have been practicing law for more than 45 years, representing clients including large and small corporations, partnerships and individuals, on both the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ side of the aisle. I have also acted as a referee and receiver on commercial and other matters.

I am a partner in the New York City office of Barclay Damon LLP, in the firm’s Litigation Department. While with the firm, I have litigated cases in state court and Federal Courts in New York and New Jersey, and conducted and participated in a number of mediations and arbitrations, both remotely and in person.

In 1988 I became the first woman partner in the history of Shea & Gould’s litigation department and tried no less than 10 state and federal court jury and non-jury trials to verdict. In 1994, I was a founding partner of the commercial litigation firm of Montclare & Wachtler, where I had an opportunity to try dozens of cases to verdict for a major insurance carrier involving construction claims, Labor Law issues, design defects, and personal injury. The firm also simultaneously operated a modest mediation company for several years called “Cadre.”

In 2008, Montclare & Wachtler was asked to join Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, (MSK) a major California- based entertainment and commercial law firm. I was a partner at MSK for 10 years, appearing regularly in State and Federal Court, most frequently in the Commercial Division in New York State Supreme Court. I also argued a number of appeals in both State and Federal courts.

In 2018 I joined Phillips Nizer, LLP and became co-chair of the firm’s Litigation Department. In that same year, I was added to the Commercial Division panel of mediators.

I have been an adjunct professor of law at Touro Law School since 2022, teaching an immersive course on pretrial litigation. I have also been a member of the faculty of the New York State Bar Association Trial Academy, and have presented programs for the New York State Bar Association. I am a past Chair of the Commercial & Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association, where I was involved in developing the rules for the Commercial Division. I have also served in the House of Delegates and other leadership positions in the New York State Bar Association.

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

I can mediate almost any kind of case, other than matrimonial matters. My mediations focus mostly on commercial cases involving breaches of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, partnership dissolution and/or partnership issues, real estate, including tenant/subtenant and landlord-tenant matters

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

In many business disputes, the parties may have other matters or even related matters/parties with which they have to deal. It is always better in the business community to resolve issues or disputes to preserve relationships and reputations if possible.  

Sometimes parties just need to “vent” before getting to “yes” to resolve those disputes and the mediation platform is often the best way to do that. The time and expense attendant to litigation can be ruinous, and mediation eliminates that time and expense and lets the parties get back to their real business.

Can you tell us a little bit about your philosophy or the approach you take as a mediator to help the parties reach a resolution?

I use a combination of evaluative and facilitative methodology. I try and see what the parties really want and see what the best way is to get there, reminding them that I am NOT a judge. I remind them that I am neutral when it comes to the case and the pros and cons of all, that the settlement is THEIR settlement, and that I will work as hard as I can to get to “yes” for both sides. I also try and point out the strengths and weaknesses in their case, always mindful that “you never know what will happen” with a judge or jury.

What do you think are the most important qualities of a good mediator? What should the parties be looking for in a mediator?

Someone who will listen and understand and spend whatever time it takes –  however long that might be – and to work as hard as he/she can to understand what the parties really want and what is really the most important thing to a resolution. No one, here or in life, gets 100%, but something that may be very important in the larger scheme of things can be achieved!

What can the parties expect from the mediation process?

The parties and the lawyers should be forthcoming and realistic. Everything said to me is completely confidential, and I will only provide the other side with information I am authorized to provide.

I will help the parties fashion a resolution that ends time-consuming and expensive litigation, and I will spend whatever time it takes to (hopefully) achieve that. They can expect to spend quality time with me to do that and have their clients do so as well.

In terms of what I require, in addition to their and their clients’ time, I expect:

  • A brief statement of their case, including what they say are the  strengths and weaknesses (REAL ONES- not postured)
  • A totally confidential demand- monetary and/or other

I always ask if the parties want the caucus method- separate meetings with each side- or if they want to all be in the same room. I do not insist on all parties being in the same room as some mediators do, but I do like to have one brief ‘introductory’ meeting with everyone before separate discussions take place.  

I also do not like “opening statements”  when and if both sides are in the same room. I find that there is a tendency for lawyers to advocate, which is not always conducive to settlement.

What are the three main things you wish the parties would do in preparation for or during a mediation?

  1. Provide a mediation statement- as long or as short as they like – and provide any relevant documents (not entire case files – only what they think is important)
  2. Speak to their clients and present a unified position in advance of the mediation
  3. Tell their clients to put aside the time, and, if additional sessions are needed, to be available to conduct them

You can read Lauren’s full bio here.

To schedule a mediation with Lauren, complete our submission form, or contact us at 631-415-4310.