This Member Spotlight features Tony Castelli, an accident and injury attorney who mediates insurance cases for several courts as well as private mediations for many types of civil cases.
Tony began his career as a social worker in 1973 before going to law school while working full time. He graduated and passed the Ohio Bar in 1981 and began practicing at a law firm where he would later become a Partner. He began his private practice in 1998, representing plaintiffs who have suffered injuries.
Tony is Vice-Chair of the Cincinnati Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and has attended a week-long training at Harvard’s Program on Negotiation.
Where do you practice mediation, and what kinds of cases do you mediate?
I mediate cases throughout Ohio but primarily in the Greater Cincinnati Area.
From you experience practicing mediation, why do you believe that the mediation process is an effective process for resolving disputes?
Mediation causes the insurance company take a look at the case and put a value to it before significant money is spent on litigation. People get to be heard and are aware they are heard. So tactical active listening and empathy are critical.
What is your general philosophy or approach to mediation?
I like to give my own opening statement, but not the parties. I use both caucuses and joint sessions. I think the mediator should act as a communication facilitator by asking questions and enforcing ground rules. I like mediating through understanding as taught at Harvard’s program on negotiation. as well as using FBI hostage negotiation techniques. Although I’ve used the word “I” in this summary, it is something I stay away from in mediations.
What characteristics do you have that come in handy during mediations?
I reality test, often called “the legal table.” I am personable and know how to listen without interrupting. I know how to reframe and summarize. I know how to show empathy.
What advice would you give to disputants looking for a mediator?
Ask other lawyers, use the internet. Look for subject matter expertise, though that is not critical with a good mediator.
What are your thoughts on the development of mediation as a profession, practice, or field of study?
I think mediators try to become amateur psychologists and make things too complicated. Others are poorly trained and just carry offers back and forth. I enjoy meeting people and using the techniques I’ve learned to help the parties fashion a solution that works for both/all off them. Many mediators do not even introduce all of the parties to each other because they start in caucus. Starting off with this degree of disconnect between the parties is demeaning and prevents deeper resolutions, and yet, this practice is rampant. Why? Because they are afraid they or their client will anger the other side (back when every lawyer was trying their case in opening).