Norman Solovay

Norman Solovay

Educational and Early Legal Training:
Cornell University, B.A.
Lieutenant, US Army, Legal Officer (Korean War) (Prior to Law School)
Columbia Law School, LL.B. (Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Law Review Editor)
Associate: Rosenman, Goldmark, Colin & Kaye
Law Secretary (Justice Charles D. Breitel)


Norman’s successful litigation career described below is why the National Trial Lawyers Association continues to include him in its list of 100 best New York Trial Lawyers. However, that listing is at odds with his view of himself as a “reformed litigator” dedicated for the past decade to settling disputes whenever possible. After finding that focusing on peaceful mutually beneficial resolutions rather than how to beat down one’s adversary is both more satisfying and far more beneficial to one’s clients, he now takes greater pride in his election to membership in the selective National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals.

Norman, like many litigators, was called upon from case to case to deal with and acquire subject matter expertise in a wide variety of substantive areas ranging from trusts and estates, business and personal divorces, real estate and entertainment industry transactions, sports law and others. Often he would be required to take on non-litigation functions, frequently but not always working with other of his partners both before a threatened litigation broke out or as part of the resolution of a dispute during or after an ongoing trial. Indeed, he would hear himself frequently described as an “entertainment” or “trust and estates” or “real estate” lawyer and, over the years, built up a “book” of non-litigation law business as well as a litigation practice.

To some extent history has repeated itself in this regard as far as his present focus on alternative dispute resolution rather than litigation is concerned. But he has found this significant difference: A lawyer settling a dispute who is acting as a mediator, collaborative lawyer, med-arbiter, or settlement counsel has a heavier learning obligation than a litigator; he or she must, not only, master the relevant law and nature of the business but must also understand the interest based factors moving the parties to the dispute.

A review of Norman’s prior career sheds some light on how he came to his present practice.

LITIGATION AND OTHER PRIOR EXPERIENCE

Norman’s legal education began before law school when he was called to active duty as a lieutenant shortly after his graduation from Cornell. He had majored in psychology and had no interest at that time in becoming a lawyer although (and perhaps because) his father was one. But he was assigned as the result of his college major to the Psychological Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. However, it needed a legal officer, and Army logic dictated that Norman, as the son of a lawyer, was the proper choice. With the assistance of a private, who was a lawyer, Norman somehow came to be viewed as “essential” in that function and after muddling through his time there without doing any serious damage he emerged with an interest in going to law school.

Norman’s two years of military service were apparently helpful, having converted him from an average undergraduate student at Cornell to one of the top few in his Columbia Law School class and an editor of its law review. He joined the Rosenman, Colin firm as a litigation associate right out of law school but left after several years because he thought the firm — then 45 lawyers — was too large, and accepted an offer to serve in a small, specialized antitrust firm.

Leaving that after several years to obtain more general litigation experience, he served as Law Secretary to then Justice Charles D. Breitel at the Appellate Division, First Department, which he regards as the most rigorous legal training of his career. Thereafter, he joined the then 15-lawyer firm of Holtzmann, Wise & Shepard, where he formed and for 17 years headed its litigation department. As the firm grew to 45 lawyers, and his litigation department to 15, Norman handled an unusually wide variety of matters in the role of general counsel to the Onassis interests and the investment banking firm of Allen & Company, plus a number of large corporations it financed. These included a steady diet of commercial litigations, including several significant securities and antitrust matters plus other sometimes interesting matters that flowed in through the doors, such as defending against a $1,000,000.00+ collection action against Aristotle Onassis; the libel action against Mary McCarthy brought by Lillian Hellman; an action by a prior agent against Willie Randolph attempting to bar his free agency; and the attempted take-over of the Ronson Lighter Company by an Italian company controlled by the subsequently jailed Michael Sindona.

Norman was introduced to arbitration through the firm’s managing partner who was the Chairman of the American Arbitration Association. Norman’s handling of numerous domestic and international arbitrations (including one said to be the longest and most expensive held in the New York Office until then) led to his authoring several books on arbitration and, ultimately, mediation. After the Holtzmann firm dissolved because at 45 lawyers it was by then too small for the type of practice it was handling, Norman became a senior litigation partner in a large well-known law firm. He left it however after five years to form a firm with his son. That firm, Solovay, Marshall & Edlin, started with four lawyers, grew to 25 and was still growing until its acquisition by a giant law firm (Greenberg, Traurig), whose corporate department his son now heads.

THE MOVE TO ADR AND MORE

Unwilling to move to a 2000+ law firm, Norman continued to litigate matters but also focused more heavily on ADR. After having served as a mediator in dozens of randomly assigned and varied cases for the US District Court in New York City as well as for various private commercial, entertainment, family and trust and estates disputes, mediation became Norman’s normal first choice for resolving disputes quickly and economically. But he also became well known as a proponent and practitioner of various increasingly popular settlement techniques, including med-arb, collaborative law and others, where classic mediation may not be suitable.

His programs and articles on the benefits of expanding the use of ADR in resolving international business disputes coupled with his early advocacy of the now increasingly popular use of med-arb to resolve probate and other disputes, as an impasse breaker in collaborative law matters, and as a cost saving replacement for frequently expensive international arbitrations, have been finding favor with domestic and international audiences.

After pointing out the potentially useful interplay among these techniques he was appointed as the first Chair of the State Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section’s Collaborative Law Committee and, most recently, of its newly established Negotiation Committee. Following a talk to an international audience about using ADR to resolve disputes and to hold down litigation costs which included a reference to a well-known warning of Gandhi’s — that “the profit motive all too often makes lawyers divide rather than reconcile people” — he was asked to form and become the first Chair of the US branch of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC).

Norman accepted an invitation several years ago to chair the ADR practice of a well known law firm and his article published by the ABA entitled “Responding to the Call for Alternative Dispute Resolution: Teaching an Old Law Firm New Tricks” is a frequently cited one. But like many of his ADR colleagues, he came to recognize that the conflicts and revenue producing requirements inherent in law firms were not conducive to an expanding ADR practice. His comprise was to establish his own firm but in the same offices where continued friendly ties with former partners plus new contacts, including a skilled Of Counsel Indian lawyer, permit it to handle most matters, large and small.

A partial list of Norman’s publications and programs can be viewed by clicking here.

Email: nsolovay@mediatorsplusmore.com