MICHAEL ROSENBERGER – Profile of the Month
Michael Rosenberger is a trial lawyer who represents clients in complex civil litigation – with a focus on commercial litigation, insurance recovery, and major personal injury and property damage claims. He is a partner with Gordon Tilden Thomas & Cordell LLP (GTTC).
Like all of his colleagues at GTTC, Mike concentrates his practice on high-stakes lawsuits. His track record with judges, arbitrators, and juries places him among a select number of trial lawyers in the Seattle area. While he takes pride in his courtroom skills, he also believes in counseling clients to help them to avoid or promptly resolve claims, if possible.
Mike joined GTTC in 2006 and was named a partner in 2008. Prior to joining the firm, Mike honed his trial skills at two other law firms and at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, where for ten years he was a senior assistant city attorney in the environmental and tort sections. After law school, Mike developed an early sense of the arguments that persuade judges and juries when he served as a law clerk to a federal trial court judge, the Hon. Rudi M. Brewster, Southern District of California.
- How often do you have cases that involve mediation?
Most of my cases are mediated at some point, and certainly any case involving substantial damages if it is not resolved through dispositive motion.
- What qualities do you look for in a mediator?
First, experience: how often does she or he do mediation? Second, what has been my personal experience with that mediator, or what have I been told about him/her? Third, has the mediator handled the type of case at issue?
If I’ve used the mediator in the past, I will obviously be governed by that experience: how do I feel about his or her preparation, style and effort to get the case settled? Some mediators are more creative than others. Also, many cases these days do not settle at the mediation itself. An important quality of a modern mediator is persistence in trying to resolve the case in the days and weeks after the date of mediation.
3.How strongly do you push to have a mediator you propose be accepted by the other side?
I don’t push. I will make suggestions but if the other side doesn’t want a particular mediator, I don’t attempt to persuade them. If a mediator that the other side proposes is acceptable to me, then I will go with that recommendation even if he or she might not be my first choice.
My belief is that it is critically important for my opponent to be completely comfortable with the mediator. The mediator has to be a salesperson in my opponent’s room—convincingly trumpeting the strengths of my case and the weaknesses of the opposition. If opposing counsel is not certain if she respects or trusts the mediator, then the mediator is going to have a tougher time convincing the other side of the weaknesses in their case.
4.How important is pre-session communication with the parties?
In my experience, this is more the exception than the rule, and I don’t view it as terribly important. In complex cases with competent lawyers on both sides that do a good job with their mediation submissions, the mediator should generally have nearly all the information he needs in order to hit the ground running on the day of the mediation.
- How important is it for the mediator to follow up if the mediation doesn’t result in a settlement? Critical! The days in which cases settled, if at all, on the day of the mediation have gone by the wayside. As we’ve all seen, there are many different reasons why cases that can be settled do not settle at the mediation itself. In general, lawyers and clients are sophisticated consumers of the mediation process and don’t feel pressure to make a deal the day of the mediation, so the mediators’ ongoing involvement is a critical factor in getting the parties to a settlement.
- What ADR topics would you like to see discussed at an ADR-related CLE?
Not to cast aspersions on any past CLE presenters, but in general I do not find presentations on ADR very interesting or informative. We all know the things that ideally go into getting a positive outcome at mediation: solid preparation via written materials, anticipating the probing questions a mediator might ask (i.e., having thoughtful and persuasive answers to the supposed weaknesses in your own case), and having candid advance conversations with your client in order to lay the groundwork for the compromises that may be necessary if he or she wants to settle. Having said that, experienced mediators might find some receptiveness to a CLE session on mistakes that even good lawyers have made during a mediation that created obstacles to success.